WASHINGTON – Americans will get more time to enroll in Obamacare insurance plans if they started the process but were unable to complete it before the March 31 deadline.
“If consumers are in line on the 31st and can’t finish, we won’t shut the door on them,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, in an email yesterday. Under the health-care law, consumers who aren’t insured by the end of March may have had to pay a penalty of as much as 1 percent of their income.
Officials said yesterday that the federal exchange’s website, healthcare.gov, had more than 1.1 million visitors on March 24, the second most ever. State exchanges also were busy with Washington state enrolling 12,000 people last week while almost 1,200 signed up at the start of the week in Connecticut, officials said.
“The expected surge in last-minute enrollments has begun,” said Richard Onizuka, the CEO for the Olympia-based Washington Health Benefit Exchange, in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Rhode Island health exchange, HealthSource RI, did not immediately return calls from Providence Business News requesting information about how the deadline extension for enrollees who began the application process before March 31 might affect Obamacare enrollment in the Ocean State.
About 5 million people enrolled in private plans through March 17 using government health exchanges created by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration has said. With a last-minute surge, the U.S. effort may meet or exceed 6 million, the most recent estimate of the Congressional Budget Office and a symbolic goal for President Barack Obama, who faces continuing criticism from political foes that the law is not viable.
Obama administration officials were deployed across the country over the last month to help push enrollment in advance of the deadline.
Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary, visited Montclair State University in New Jersey to observe local enrollment efforts there, while Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett met with local officials in Los Angeles at an event at a community health clinic, according to a White House statement.