Website Glitches Extend Obamacare Enrollment
For the second year, Obamacare enrollment isn’t exactly over when it’s over. The regular open enrollment season ended at midnight Sunday but the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced a one-week “special enrollment” period ending Feb. 22 for people trying to enroll through HealthCare.gov who encountered technical glitches or faced long waits through the call center on the final weekend. Most states have outlined similar policies. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange announced Monday a special enrollment period for two months in that state. California and Minnesota are considering it. HHS did not give an enrollment update Monday but reported throughout the final weekend that website traffic and call center volume were heavy. Even before the final deadline neared, 10 million people had selected plans or been re-enrolled on the federal or state exchanges, although not all have paid yet. HHS hopes to have more than 9 million covered in the exchanges this year. That’s less than the Congressional Budget Office forecast. A special enrollment period around tax time would boost the numbers further. A paper published by the Urban Institute on Saturday notes various trade-offs to a special enrollment period. Verifying that consumers faced tax penalties could be a headache and the special period could muddle messaging strategies. The authors suggested that the administration consider changing the dates of future open enrollment periods to early in the calendar year. This revision would likely push more uninsured to enroll because the previous year’s penalty for not having coverage would be fresh in their minds, the authors write.