The second-year start of Obamacare enrollment will be pushed back by one month to give health insurers more time to prepare new plans and rates, an official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.
That enrollment period, previously scheduled to begin Oct. 15, 2014, will now start Nov. 15, said the official who asked not to be identified because the decision isn’t public. The change is important to insurers that need more time to evaluate the first year of the government-run marketplaces, set up last month as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Young and healthy people who are necessary to balance the financial risk posed by older Americans aren’t likely to sign up in large numbers until March, said Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who helped design the 2010 health law. Giving insurers extra time to set second- year rates may result in lower premiums.
“This is an important business for them and they want to make smart decisions about how they set their rates,” he said. “It’s in the nation’s interest they get time to make those decisions.”
The first-year enrollment period that began Oct. 1 runs through March 31, 2014. Insurers would have then had until May to decide if they wanted participate in the next round and determine what rates they would charge.
While 106,185 people enrolled in private plans through the government exchanges last month, almost 1 million more abandoned the application process after encountering website errors and long wait times. Hundreds of thousands of Americans meanwhile have received letters from their current insurers informing them that their existing coverage is being canceled because it doesn’t comply with the new health law rules.
Pushing back the 2015 dates gives the state and federal governments more time to sort out technical issues with the exchanges, the official said. It may also allow room for the government to extend the current enrollment period, Gruber said, though that would create more problems.
“Any delay in open enrollment ought to be reflected in consequently rolling back these dates further,” he said.
At least 10 Democratic senators have asked President Barack Obama to extend the first enrollment period for health plans beyond the end of March because of the flawed rollout of the exchanges.
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