The enrollment deadline expired for the latest Obamacare sign-up this week. However it remains open indefinitely for those who had partially completed their forms before the computer chaos ensued much like the original sign-up last year. Democratic senators urged President Barack Obama to approve the extension for people who face penalties for not having health insurance in 2014.
Those very same senators have good reasons for asking for the extension. Without it, their heads may be on the proverbial stick with angry voters in their states. As of Friday,
eleven senators had sent a letter to the Obama administration calling for the reprieve so that uninsured people who pay the 2014 tax penalty could enroll in health plans and avoid the higher fees for 2015, The New York Times reported.
As the senators wrote to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell, “After paying the fee, these individuals may seek to purchase affordable health insurance and avoid a similar fee for 2015, only to discover that the open enrollment window closed on Feb. 15.”
Among the Democratic Senators involved were Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Charles Schumer of New York, and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, all signed the letter, along with six others.
In fact, Sen. Heitkamp told the New York Times, “Some Americans will realize too late that they will be forced to pay a penalty for not having health coverage. At the same time, they will no longer be able to sign up for that coverage because the enrollment period closed.”
Although the final decision on keeping enrollment is not officially sanctioned, it is presumed that those who have started their applications will not be turned away. The Obama administration said it was taking the suggestion “under advisement” and expected to make a decision later this month, according to the Times.
The smart money says the door will be left wide open. It will be known as the “special enrollment period” for people who face tax penalties because they failed to sign up for health coverage last year and who also missed the deadline to obtain coverage for 2015. It is something that is vitally necessary for the 11 senators to keep their electorate happy with an unpopular law.
It was reported by The Times that hundreds of thousands of people had raced in the final days to beat the midnight deadline for HealthCare.gov, and that 60,000 people were trying to use the site on Sunday. Those are the kind of numbers that will turn any senator’s head.
At the crux of the problem are the many consumers who tried to sign up by phone. They were left on hold with no response because the system had failed. They were told it was due to “high call volume,” and the wait could be over 30 minutes. It was more like never.
* If you have enjoyed this column, may I suggest you press the SUBSCRIBE box? It’s FREE. Thank you for your patronage.
** Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org