The Obama administration has extended the deadline from midnight tonight to midnight Christmas Eve to sign up for ObamaCare.

The Washington Post headline says that the deadline was extended “quietly,” though other adverbs come to mind. Sneakily might be an alternative adverb. The administration made the change through adjustments to the online marketplace (shudder):

Over the weekend, government officials and outside IT contractors working on the online marketplace’s computer system made a software change that automatically gives people a Jan. 1 start date for their coverage as long as they enroll by 11:59 p.m. Christmas Eve. …

One individual familiar with the unannounced extension said that it is, in part, intended as a buffer in case the Web site has trouble if a last-minute surge of insurance-seekers proved more than the computer system could handle.

According to the two individuals, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity about a matter that is not public, the one-day extension is automatic, built into the software, and cannot be overridden by individual insurers if they object.

The newspaper reports that officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have not responded to questions about why the deadline was extended and why it was kept secret. I have another question: what use is a secret deadline extension? I mean, if my professor gives me an extension to the deadline on my paper and doesn't bother to tell me….

But, apparently, these changes will not be easy for the health insurance industry. Heath industry officials complained to the Washington Post. None would be quoted by name, as they don’t want to offend the Obama administration (and who can blame them? This is an administration that seems daily to accrue more authority.).

But one of these anonymous officials explained why the extension is bad:

“Making yet another last-minute change to the rules by shortening an already-tight time period in which to process enrollments makes it even harder to ensure people who have selected a plan are able to have their coverage begin in January,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the change has not been made public.

If I were in the insurance business, I would be terrified: it appears that the administration is developing a habit of making arbitrary changes, aimed at looking better politically. If there is a problem, well, the insurance companies get blamed. I can't quite shed tears over insurance executives, who, smelling government-backed goodies, lined up with ObamaCare. Still, as Allahpundit comments:

The new deadline, by the way: Literally one minute before Christmas. If you work for an insurance company and you’re facing a 16-hour shift on Wednesday while your family’s home celebrating, just remember — this is what your boss gets for betting that Barack Obama could reinvent the industry, Hopenchange-style.

It is interesting that insurers cannot override this administration's latest change. This bolsters Charles Krauthammer’s observation that the insurance companies are now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the national government. Krauthammer further predicts that insurance companies, wrecked by ObamaCare, will ask for a government bailout next year. If the GOP complies, we may one day come to regard the $10 billion taxpayers lost bailing out GM as chump change.

The president, by the way, is signing up for ObamaCare today—assuming the website works. It is purely for show, though, at least for the next three years. He has access to the nation’s military hospitals and a household medical staff that includes four doctors, some nurses and physicians assistants. Don’t expect to see him at the Minute Clinic, in other words.