Consumers wanting an ObamaCare plan that will begin January 1 still have a few hours to enroll after the latest extension of the deadline.
Consumers were initially told by Healthcare.gov to enroll by December 15 if they wanted health insurance beginning January 1. Healthcare.gov then moved the deadline to tonight, December 17, at 11:59 PST. An email from Healthcare.gov mentions "unprecedented consumer demand" as a reason for the extension.
Hadley Heath Manning, director of health policy at the Independent Women's Forum, says there are two things to keep in mind about the demand for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare.
"The first thing is that, yes, in the last couple of days I imagine they have seen a great increase in phone calls made to their call centers and traffic on their website,” she says. “Any time we approach a deadline, people wait for a variety of reasons – this is true since grade school. Of course, for a variety of reasons, December is a busy time of year for people and families anyway, as they prepare to end the calendar year with usual holiday celebrations and gift-giving."
On that note, Manning says some consumers interested in ObamaCare plans probably waited until the December 15 deadline to see what was available and signup.
"The second piece of information to keep in mind in terms of demand for ObamaCare in 2016 is that the price of going without health insurance or the penalty that people will face will be much higher,” she continues.
“So the penalty will be $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever one of those two is higher. And of course, people are going to try to be sure that they're compliant, unless they're willing to pay that penalty. Unfortunately, that is more of a stick than a carrot that is creating demand for ObamaCare for now."
When it comes to the tax penalty, some individuals, think tanks and special-interest groups argue that the government cannot really do anything to get the tax penalty, other than take it out of a refund that might be owed to a taxpayer. Meanwhile, other organizations are touting alternatives to ObamaCare, including plans not on a state or federal exchange.