Obamacare Fumbling Continues With Newest Quick-Fix

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Monday, 23 Dec 2013 10:01 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Moving deadlines and quick-fixes have been the hallmark of Obamacare from the start, and the fumbling continued Monday with an abrupt change-of-date giving the uninsured a brief 24-hour extension, until Christmas Eve, to sign up for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

"We're just trying to make sure everyone who wants to get enrolled to be covered by Jan. 1 is able to do that," White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri told MSNBC on Monday, according to Politico. "We still consider the end of the deadline to be today, but we're going to try to accommodate people who try to get it done [Monday]."

The HealthCare.gov Twitter account said record demand prompted a "fail-safe" extension, Politico reported — even though Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille sent a decidedly mixed signal.

"The deadline for signing up for coverage to start Jan. 1 is today," her statement said, Politico reported. "We recognize that many have chosen to make their final decisions on today's deadline, and are committed to making sure they can do so. Consumers should not wait until tomorrow. If you are aiming to get coverage Jan. 1, you should try to sign up today."

The confusion is all too familiar. In October, Obamacare insurance buyers were operating  on the assumption they had until Dec. 15 to pick a plan if they wanted coverage beginning Jan. 1.

A month later, however, the no-later-than deadline was stretched to Dec. 23 — even as the Department of Health and Human Services was pushing back its deadline for when the first month's insurance premium would come due, from Jan. 1 to Jan. 10. 

It's not just the deadlines that have kept Americans guessing.

On Dec. 19, the administration announced its most major "fix" for Americans who had lost their coverage because it didn't measure up to Obamacare standards: changing policy to help people make the deadline to replace their dropped plans.

Those with inadequate insurance who got dumped by their insurance carriers were then allowed to claim a "hardship exemption," giving them the option to buy cheaper, minimal coverage normally available only to people under 30.

"This is not a new policy," Palmieri said Monday, Politico reported. "We merely clarified on behalf of a group of senators who asked the same questions on behalf of their constituents."

"We actually don't think in reality a great many people will avail themselves of this option," she said. "We just want to make sure that people understand they have this option."

Another Obamacare mandate "fix" came Nov. 14 — a week after President Barack Obama apologized to insured Americans whose plans were dropped despite his oft-repeated promise that would never happen under the new law — asking insurers to offer the sub-par coverage for another year. 

The president switched the mandate for small businesses too, announcing last July that he was bumping the deadline requiring companies with 50 or more employees to offer insurance from Jan. 1, 2014, to Jan. 1, 2015.

Reuters contributed to this report

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