As noted in a previous post, Healthcare.gov failed customers on the last hours of open enrollment this past weekend and now anyone who had problems signing up is getting an extension. If some Democratic members on Capitol Hill have their way, all Americans will get extra time.
Despite a relatively quiet open enrollment that began in November, fresh website errors appeared late last week as returning customers looked for new plans and new customers scoped out options available to them. Now, the Administration is giving customers an extra week to purchase healthcare coverage if they faced long wait times when trying to submit applications over the weekend.
As Time reports, Health and Human Services announced a one-week “special enrollment” period ending Feb. 22 for people who encountered problems while trying to enroll via Healthcare.gov. This courtesy is only available to those who tried to purchase for the first time. For those who were already covered and want to change their plans, they’re out of luck.
Many states have announced extensions as well, and the rules will be different per state. Washington state currently has the most generous extension, stretching its deadline all the way through Tax Day to April 17. As far-fetched as that sounds, the federal government may follow suite.
Nearly a dozen Democratic Senators have asked HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell to encourage the creation of a special enrollment period around tax season that would offer the public another bite of the ObamaCare apple. According to these senators, many Americans (as many as one million) don’t realize that they’ll face a bummer in the form of tax penalty this year for not carrying coverage last year – although they will when they go to file their taxes. They see this as a good opportunity to get uncovered people to sign up.
The Hill reports:
"Such a special enrollment period would increase coverage in affordable private health insurance and reduce the costs that the uninsured pass along to the insured," the senators wrote. "We are confident that this special enrollment period would build on the success of the law by allowing even more uninsured Americans to benefit from the health and financial security provided by the Affordable Care Act."
A Harris poll in September found that 46 percent of uninsured people were unaware of the mandate to buy insurance.
The letter was also signed by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).
HHS has already extended the deadline for some people. On Monday it announced that people who tried to sign up this weekend but could not because of long wait times or technical glitches will have until this Sunday to sign up.
Granting extensions for people to enroll in ObamaCare is nothing new. The President unilaterally extended open enrollment last year to secure the numbers necessary to avoid embarrassment by being able to claim that they beat enrollment estimates. Those numbers were subsequently scaled back as over million sign ups neglected to pay their premiums or neglected to provide income and immigration information. And then came news last November that the enrollment numbers were inflated.
Extensions simply buy time to boost enrollment numbers. In part to soften the blow to the wallets of Americans and in part to recruit more people, Democrats and the Administration are trying to earn brownie points for a flawed plan that only delivers insurance coverage but does little or nothing to address the fundamental problems with our healthcare system.
ObamaCare forces everyone to take healthcare or pay a compounding penalty and makes plans affordable by sticking taxpayers with the tab. It drives up the costs of business by making each employee more expensive and straddles industries with red tape and reporting. ObamaCare delivers fewer options to patients and drives up costs for delivering care.
If this was true reform, we would see costs of healthcare minimized which could then be passed on to customers in the form of more affordable plans. However, such plans, which existed before ObamaCare was created, have been cancelled leaving consumers with less choice and worse care for the same or more costs.
Extensions only delay and mask the pain inflicted by ObamaCare. What we truly need is patient-centered reforms that protect our freedoms and choice. ObamaCare was, is and will ever be a bad deal for Americans.