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Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

White House Extends Insurance Enrollment Deadline

Record number of visits to HealthCare.gov on Monday is behind the change, official says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Karen Pallarito

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 23, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The Obama Administration on Monday extended the deadline for people to register for health insurance coverage on Healtcare.gov by an extra 24 hours, through to the end of Tuesday.

The official deadline for signing up through the website for coverage that would begin Jan. 1 is 11:59 p.m. on Monday. But, according to The New York Times, an unnamed senior administration official who is familiar with the move confirmed that the deadline has been extended by one day.

There was a record amount of traffic on Healthcare.gov on Monday, the Times reported, and health officials wanted to make sure that people who are looking for coverage can get it, the Times said.

The newspaper said the official asked to remain anonymous because the shift in the deadline has not been formally announced, and the Obama administration is concerned about another record surge of visits to the website on Tuesday.

In most states, Monday, Dec. 23 had been the deadline for selecting a plan that takes effect on the first day of the new year.

"We would really encourage people to start now. Don't wait until the deadline to enroll," Cheryl Fish-Parcham, deputy director of health policy at Families USA in Washington, D.C., said last week.

People need to leave themselves enough time to gather the information they need to complete an insurance application, select a health plan and pay the premium by the health plan's deadline, she said.

The pre-Christmas race to buy health insurance is another consequence of the troubled launch of the Affordable Care Act's HealthCare.gov website and website difficulties in a number of state-run health insurance exchanges. Since the October launch of the health exchanges, sign-up and premium-payment deadlines have been extended to give people more time to enroll for coverage, but the new cut-offs come amid the holiday rush.

Many people aren't aware of the various deadlines under the law, sometimes called Obamacare. What's more, the deadlines may vary by state and by health insurer, health insurance agents and brokers said.

"There is a lot of confusion," said Anna Causey, vice president of Combined Insurance Services Inc., a Pensacola, Fla.-based benefits broker.

Some people mistakenly believe they have until Dec. 31 to enroll in a plan that takes effect on Jan. 1, Causey said. Others don't realize they could pay a federal tax penalty if they don't have health insurance in place by March 31, she said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, most adults will pay a $95 penalty -- or 1 percent of income -- in 2014 if they don't have health insurance coverage. The penalty rises to $695 -- or 2 percent of income -- by 2016.

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