KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Surge Of Sign-Ups Expected To Hit Healthcare.gov Before March 31

Consumers who at least begin the enrollment process before Monday's deadline can avoid the health law's tax penalty, according to this week's Obama administration decision. The change, which some are calling an extension, has triggered some worry from insurers and a round of new attacks from the overhaul's opponents.  

The Wall Street Journal: Extension Of Health Law Signup Period Worries Insurers
The Obama administration's decision to let some consumers enroll in health plans beyond Monday's deadline sparked concern among insurers and prompted fresh attacks from opponents of the health law. A surge of consumers is expected to hit HealthCare.gov before Monday's deadline to sign up for insurance and avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. In the past, heavy traffic has stalled the federal site (Radnofsky and Mathews, 3/26).

The Hill: Insurers Grow Sick Of O-Care
The health insurance industry can’t wait for ObamaCare’s first enrollment season to be over so that it can have a break from dealing with the White House, sources on K Street say. Insurers feel that the administration has taken advantage of them by making repeated delays and changes to the law, even as they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to fix problems with the rollout (Viebeck, 3/27).

The New York Times: U.S. Announces Further Exemptions For Insurance Enrollment Deadline
The Obama administration on Wednesday expanded the list of people who could sign up for health insurance after the deadline, announcing “special enrollment periods” for legal immigrants, victims of domestic violence and tens of thousands of people who experienced various problems trying to complete their applications for coverage (Pear, 3/26).

Los Angeles Times: Interest In Obamacare Surges Ahead Of Enrollment Deadline
As Monday's deadline approaches to sign up for insurance under President Obama's health law, more than 1 million people a day are visiting HealthCare.gov, Obama administration officials said Wednesday. The site — the main portal for insurance marketplaces in 36 states — drew 1.2 million visitors Tuesday and 1.1 million visitors Monday, according to the administration. … The surge in consumers comes as the administration is taking steps to ensure that Americans who start the enrollment process by Monday but fail to complete it will still be able to get health coverage (Levey and Memoli, 3/26).

Reuters: U.S. Extends Obamacare Sign-Up Deadline In Case Of Tech Troubles 
Americans in most states who tried to apply for medical coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare law by a March 31 deadline but met with technical difficulties will get an automatic extension to enroll, officials said on Wednesday. The new federal guidelines apply to consumers in the 36 states served by the federal health insurance marketplace and its website, HealthCare.gov (3/26).

NPR: That Health Insurance Deadline Now Comes With Wiggle Room
We're just five days away from the March 31 deadline to sign up for individual health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. For weeks, administration officials, including the president, have insisted that there would be no extensions to the scheduled end of the six-month open enrollment period. But now there's some wiggle room. Let's review, shall we? (Rovner, 3/26).

ABC News: Obamacare Deadline Extended, But Should You Wait?
President Obama insisted last month that Monday, March 31, would be “last call” for Americans to sign up for a health insurance plan under the federal law without risking a financial penalty. Like so many other deadlines involving the Affordable Care Act, however, this one turned out to be flexible. The White House effectively extended the open enrollment period Tuesday by allowing anyone who claims to have started the enrollment process on or before March 31 to check a “special enrollment” box. Doing so grants the applicant a hardship exemption and gives them a yet-to-be-determined grace period to complete the enrollment process. The deadline to submit paper applications was also extended to a final-for-now date of April 7 (Neporent, 3/27).

Politico: Obamacare Extension For Those ‘In Line’
The Obama administration is giving anyone “in line” for health coverage extra time to get it. But there isn’t really a “line” and nobody’s checking who’s on it. After insisting for months that the March 31 enrollment deadline would hold firm, the administration is giving America some wiggle room. The official deadline remains March 31, and the White House is strongly encouraging people to sign up now to avoid the crush. But it’s leaving the door wide open for people who say they had sign-up difficulty, broadly defined, to get more time (Norman and Cheney, 3/27).

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Everything We Know About How Obamacare’s March 31 Deadline Works
The Obama administration has been adamant that the latest enrollment announcement isn't a deadline extension. The big question, though, is how does the administration make sure people who say they tried to enroll before March 31 actually made that effort? As my colleague Amy Goldstein reported last night, CMS is going with the honor system. People submitting their applications on HealthCare.gov or through a call center after March 31 "attest" that they had trouble enrolling before the deadline (Millman, 3/26).

CBS News: Obamacare Deadline Fluid, Depending On Where You Are
As open enrollment on the new Obamacare marketplaces comes to a close, consumers across the nation will find that the leeway they're given to meet the deadline will vary depending on where they live. The Obama administration on Wednesday announced that anyone who begins to enroll in a health plan on HealthCare.gov before the March 31 deadline will have more time to finish the process. "Just like election day, if you are in line when the polls close, you get to vote," explained Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). "We're doing all we can to ensure that every American who wants to enroll in affordable coverage by the end of the open enrollment period is able to do so” (Condon, 3/27).

PBS NewsHour: Obama Administration Extends Health Care Sign-Up Completion Deadline To April 15
Five days before the March 31 enrollment deadline, the Obama administration says that Americans will have more time to sign up on federal health care exchanges if they’ve begun but can’t finish the process on time. Gwen Ifill talks to Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News and Ceci Connolly of PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute for a closer look at the extension and its critics (Ifill, 3/26).

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