Obamacare’s ‘Last Call’ Not Final After All

Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Wendy Gonzalez sits with, Maria Mena, an insurance agent from Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as she purchases insurance under the Affordable Care Act at a store setup in the Mall of Americas on March 20, 2014 in Miami.

Last call, it turns out, isn’t last call after all.

After weeks of playing to a March 31 deadline as the last chance for having health insurance or paying a tax penalty, the Obama administration says an extension is possible — for people who’ve tried to enroll in the new health-care exchanges at closing time but haven’t been able to close the deal yet.

The warning on closing time has gone out from the president and his allies alike, in English and in Spanish:

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia has spread the word en espanol:

As recently as today, the White House tweeted out its reminder:

Yet the Washington Post reported tonight that, like the payment of taxes, enrollment in Obamacare now comes with the option of an extension.

The Post: “Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension. Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.”

“The rules, which will apply to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states, will essentially create a large loophole even as White House officials have repeatedly said that the March 31 deadline was firm. The extra time will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.”

Word was spreading as quickly as the deadline was approaching.

 

This isn’t the first deadline to be extended by the Obama administration, which already has given larger employers an additional year to comply with the law’s mandate to provide insurance for employees. It is certain to provide more fodder for critics of the law complaining that the administration has been bending the rules for a program that was ill-fated from the start.

 

 


Considering, though, that it was the Republicans who fought to delay the implementation of “Obamacare,” as the Healthcare.gov website opened to a botched rollout when the federal government was forced into a partial shutdown in October, the battle lines are starting to get fuzzy in this debate.

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