Extra Time If You’re In Line for Obamacare

Yes, the deadline to apply for health insurance under Obamacare is March 31.  But there is some flexibility if you started an Obamacare application and are unable to complete it because of circumstances beyond your control.

One reason may be the sheer number of people trying to sign up at the last minute.  It’s suddenly very busy with 1.2 million visits to Healthcare.gov and 390,000 phone calls to the call center on Tuesday March 25.

This huge crush of applicants near the deadline was expected and a queuing system was created to handle one person after another on Healthcare.gov and in the call center.  But Obama administration officials aren’t ruling out the possibility that  some may get stuck in line, or not be able to complete a health insurance application before the midnight deadline on the 31st.

If you do get stuck online, through the call center, or with a paper application you will have “. . . a limited amount of time to finish the application and enrollment process,” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services  (CMS), which runs the program.

You’ll have to fill out a form attesting that you were in line and complete your application. If you select a plan and pay your insurance premium your insurance will start as of May 1.

People whose paper applications are not received until April 7 will also be treated as though they were in line. If you’re in this group, as long as you make your payment immediately your insurance can start May 1.

It’s not clear how long a grace period you’ll have. CMS spokesperson Julie Bataille said, “We are making sure that we are flexible. It could take a few days. It could take a week or two for those consumers to complete their applications.”

The Department of Health and Human Services also created a special enrollment period beyond March 31 for people who  miss the deadline because of natural disasters, power outages and medical problems, or were the victims of misconduct by an insurance company or a navigator paid by the government to help with enrollment.

While this flexibility may help a lot people, House Speaker John Boehner (R. Ohio) criticized the extensions. He asked,  “What the hell is this? Is this a joke?  And went on to say, “This is part of a long-term pattern of this administration manipulating the laws for its own convenience.”

 In the meantime, remember if you don’t have health insurance there are penalties for failing to sign up .  Click through here to find out more.



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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created ConsumerMojo.com to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.