Obamacare enrollment deadline for 2014 extended a week

Photo courtesy Healthcare.gov

Acknowledging that many frustrated consumers are still trying to enroll in an Obamacare plan for coverage starting in January 2014, the Obama administration on Friday announced that it is extending the deadline to do so by a week.

Consumers now have until Dec. 23 to sign up for Obamacare if they want coverage starting in January. The administration initially said that consumers would need to sign up by Dec. 15 for January coverage, in order to give insurers enough time to process applications. However,  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters Friday that the decision to push back the deadline was made “in consultation” with insurance companies.

“We believe the insurance companies will be able to provide coverage” by Jan. 1 even with the new deadline, she said.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to obtain some kind of insurance coverage starting in 2014 or pay a fine to the IRS. However, for the first year of the new rule, consumers have until the end of March -- when open enrollment on the new marketplaces closes -- to get insured before being hit with the fine.

Jeff Zients, the former corporate executive leading the administration’s efforts to fix the glitchy Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, said Friday that he can “guarantee” that anyone who needs coverage by Jan. 1 can get it. By the end of November, Zients said, HealthCare.gov should be able to handle 800,000 visits per day, and 50,000 simultaneous visits. He reiterated the administration’s promise that the website should be functional for the “vast majority” of users by the end of November.

Earlier Friday, Health and Human Services confirmed to CBS that it’s also <a href=”http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obamacare-enrollment-for-2015-to-be-delayed-a-month”>delaying the open enrollment period for 2015</a> by a month next year, in order to give insurers more time to calculate 2015 premiums.

Meanwhile, on Thursday night, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released emails from government officials confirming that HealthCare.gov crashed in tests performed just days before its Oct. 1 launch.

For instance, on Sept. 27, CMS official David Nelson emailed Henry Chao, the chief project manager for HealthCare.gov at CMS, to say, “We have not been successful in moving beyond 500 concurrent users filling applications without income verification.”

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