- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2014

Obamacare’s first major deadline of the new enrollment period passed Monday without serious hiccups, marking a stark turnaround from last year, when web glitches nearly doomed the reform.

But it remained to be seen if the administration is on track to meet its scaled-down target of 9.1 million new and returning enrollees in the health exchanges.

The administration needs more than 2 million new enrollees to sign up by Feb. 15, and also hopes that the 6.7 million who signed up in the first go-around won’t see be scared off by sticker shock this time.

As of Dec. 5, the administration said 1.3 million people had chosen plans this time, and slightly less than half of them are new customers.

Existing customers, meanwhile, had a Monday deadline to choose a new plan or else they were automatically re-enrolled in their old coverage, which in many cases meant their premiums rose or their government subsidy dropped.

Mr. Obama made a last-minute radio plea for customers to shop around, but analysts said they don’t expect many existing customers to heed the warnings.

“Inertia is a powerful force, so I suspect many individuals will not return to the marketplace to shop for coverage,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, a director at the Avalere Health consultancy in Washington.

The administration set a Dec. 15 deadline for customers to enroll in time to get coverage by Jan. 1. Customers can still sign up until Feb. 15 to get coverage in the Obama exchanges’ second full year, or to make changes if they see unexpected costs in the new year.

“It’s a good Christmas present for people who already have signed up for the Affordable Care Act to just take the time to go shopping, it won’t take you long, and you may end up saving money,” Mr. Obama told “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest in an interview that aired Monday.

The Obamacare marketplace had 6.7 million enrollees going into this round of sign-ups. The Health and Human Services Department estimates it can reach 9.1 million next year.

In his radio interview, Mr. Obama acknowledged that last year did not go as planned, but said a functioning website gave his law momentum in its second year.

“Every survey shows that the vast majority are satisfied” with their coverage, Mr. Obama said.

The law continues to poll poorly overall, however, and Republicans will try to chip away at the law when they hold majorities in Congress come January.

Among the states, a spokeswoman for Kentucky’s exchange said there had been an uptick in demand the “kynect” portal over the past few days, but not the “huge crush” it saw last year, because Medicaid enrollees do not have to come back to re-up in coverage.

“The system and the call center are meeting the demand,” spokeswoman Gwenda Bond said.

Minnesota’s exchange, MNSure, cited heavy demand Monday in announcing that customers would have until Saturday to sign up.

MNSure CEO Scott Leitz stressed that the last-minute extension was made in conjunction with health insurers, and not due to the type of web glitches Obamacare customers saw last year.

“The MNsure system continues to be stable and the vast majority of people coming through the system are doing so without issue,” he said. “This change is simply to allow folks that qualify for financial help more time.”

HealthCare.gov, which serves 37 states, and state-run exchanges in large states like California and New York stuck to the Dec. 15 deadline.

However, a select number of customers who waited “longer than normal” on the line with the federal exchange’s call centers were asked to leave their contact information so they could talk to someone Tuesday and still get covered by Jan. 1, said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“As we have anticipated, we are seeing very high consumer demand on HealthCare.gov and at the call center for people looking to meet the deadline,” he said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide