March 26 2014
Patrice J. Lee
What do you do when a deadline is approaching and you’re falling short of your goals? If you’re the Obama Administration, you flout the deadline and create a new loophole.
Yesterday, Health and Human Services announced that that it will extend the March 31 open enrollment deadline for people who select plans through the healthcare exchanges but don’t complete the process in time. In short, if you join the line with your shopping cart by next Monday you’ll get extra time to check out before the store closes.
This marks yet another extension or rule change that the Administration unilaterally instituted as they face the very real prospect that enrollment numbers will fall short of targets.
They are calling it a grace period, but that’s just semantics and a veiled excuse for the Administration which has always promoted March 31 as the firm deadline when Americans can sign up. Why set deadlines if you’re just going to blow through them?
The Washington Post reports:
Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.
Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.
The rules, which will apply to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states, will essentially create a large loophole even as White House officials have repeatedly said that the March 31 deadline was firm. The extra time will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.
According to a Health and Human Services official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about decisions that have not been made public, an exact time frame for this extension has not been set, and it will depend in part on how many people request it. Nor have officials decided precisely how long people will have to select a health plan after they get the extra time.
We shouldn’t be surprised that with a week to go before the “deadline,” the Obama Administration would decide to change the rules once again.
A few things should stick out with this new extension. First, there is no announced end date for when applicants need to apply for an extension. This gives the Administration flexibility to quietly continue extending the deadline for additional weeks or even perhaps months.
Second, extensions will be granted based on the honor system. The government won’t investigate whether applicants are telling the truth when they check a box on the website to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. Leaving the applications for healthcare plans to the honesty of applicants is an irresponsible approach especially since taxpayer dollars are at stake with the subsidies that applicants may be applying for. Where is the accountability? Let’s just remember that the IRS doesn’t leave the submission of tax returns to the honor system. If your tax filing isn’t postmarked by April 15th you’re in trouble.
In addition, this means that we won’t know just how many people actually enrolled in ObamaCare for some time as it will take time to parse through the applications. What we’ll like see is a big announcement once a key target is hit like 6 million enrollments.
And by the way, there is no mention of applicants actually paying for their healthcare plans. As we know, the Administration defines enrollment as simply selecting a plan. Whereas, enrollment –as defined by insurers- is actually paying your first month’s premium. SO far at least a million “enrollments” had yet to pay.
The White House thinks that by granting this extension, it will prompt a flood of applicants into ObamaCare which it needs – especially young people. They are willing to twist, bend, and break the law to accomplish their goal and save face.
The string of cancellations, exemptions, extensions, and rule changes expose what has always been a faulty law with negative consequences for Americans and American workers. ObamaCare is a bad deal and there’s no fixing it.