In an Obamacare delay that will affect more Americans than any other so far, the White House is expected to extend the deadline to mid-April for those who cannot enroll in healthcare plans through the troubled HealthCare.gov website by March 31.
The Obama administration is expected to announce the delay in the open enrollment deadline on Wednesday, The Washington Post
reports. The move is expected to affect millions of Americans who have not been able to enroll in Obamacare through the troubled federal website.
"We are . . . making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment — either online or over the phone,” Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the Post.
The agency is the division within the Department of Health and Human Services that is overseeing Obamacare's implementation.
But the expected move was immediately attacked by Republicans as yet another tactic by the administration to ease the effects of the troubled healthcare law before this fall's congressional elections.
“Another day, another Obamacare delay from the same Obama administration that won’t work with Republicans to help Americans suffering from the unintended consequences of the Democrats’ failed healthcare law," Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus said.
"Democrats in leadership may say they are doubling down on Obamacare, but you have to wonder how many more unilateral delays their candidates running in 2014 can withstand," Priebus said.
In addition, the change would come three days after the Affordable Care Act marked its fourth anniversary on Sunday. The law is considered President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement.
Further, it would follow the administration's quiet announcement earlier this month
that it was delaying through October 2016 the Obamacare individual mandate for Americans who lost their healthcare coverage when that requirement took effect last year but still had not obtained new coverage.
Other key Obamacare provisions have been delayed, and millions of Americans have seen skyrocketing premiums and deductibles along with lower-quality care.
HealthCare.gov, which covers 36 states that do not have their own insurance exchanges, has been plagued with technical glitches, and the site has been taken down many times for repairs.
Since the last delay of the individual mandate in December, Americans have been told that they had to purchase insurance by March 31 to avoid being fined by the Internal Revenue Service.
The White House had insisted that deadline was firm.
But with the coming announcement, the administration apparently is expecting a deluge of Obamacare enrollees just before the March deadline, the Post reports. This could prevent Americans from being able to obtain coverage in a timely manner.
The extension will be granted to Americans who check a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline, the Post reports, and the government will rely on an honor system rather than try to determine whether enrollees are telling the truth.
The change applies only to those seeking coverage through HealthCare.gov — and it creates a new category of Americans who have applied through a "special enrollment period," the Post reports.
Actual coverage would not be delayed.
But those who wait until the last minute would not be eligible for the extension, the Post reports. The government's goal is to help people whose applications have been held up because of HealthCare.gov's myriad problems.
At a news conference earlier Tuesday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state slammed the ACA, declaring, "One thing is clear: this law has been a bust, failing to deliver on its core promises while also undermining healthcare peace of mind for families, businesses, seniors, and doctors all across the country."
"The administration is not being honest with the American people about the effects of this law," said McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the House Republican Conference. "It has been repeatedly redefined — and it's not even collecting data on how many previously uninsured Americans are actually receiving coverage," she said.
"At the same time, the administration is hiding the full extent of the law's consequences by delaying deadlines and rewriting requirements."
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