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How Long Does Obama Have to Fix Healthcare.gov?

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Insurers may not support a longer enrollment either, said Antos. That’s because a later deadline means more time without premium revenue coming in from potential healthy customers while costs mount from providing care to sick customers, who probably signed up before Jan. 1, he said.

Extending the enrollment period could also lead to a domino effect, bolstering efforts by Republicans and other critics of the law to delay the fine for those who fail to sign up for coverage.  With some exceptions, nearly all Americans are required to have insurance next year, or they face a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their household income.

In addition, it could hurt public perception of the law and of the federal government, said Geoffrey Joyce, director of health policy at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC.

“From a political standpoint, it just shows that this is not working well and it gives fuel to the opposition,” he said. “It doesn’t build confidence that these people know what they are doing.”

Others, however, are less concerned about a slow start. “The law would not reach its target of insuring as many people as possible,” said Carter Price, a mathematician at the Rand Corporation. “But [the federal government] will get a second chance the next year if things don’t go off as planned the first year.”

Greg Mellowe, policy director of consumer group Florida Chain, said that while the troubled website makes it more difficult for groups doing outreach and education, “most people understand that problems with technology are to be expected early on in an initiative of this magnitude.”

Because the health law is primarily aimed at low to moderate income people - and their household cash flow is often drained by holiday gift spending and replenished by February tax refunds -- getting the exchange working by November isn’t critical, said Brian Haile, senior vice president of healthcare policy at Jackson Hewitt tax service.

“If you’re trying to sell something you need to do it at a period during which you don’t have competing consumption,” said Haile. “After Nov. 1 ... foremost on their minds is not, ‘Am I going to buy insurance?’ but ‘What am I going to put under the tree?’ ”

Mon, Oct 21 2013

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