Americans now have an extra 24 hours to sign up for healthcare coverage that is set to begin Jan. 1.
The original deadline – 11:59 p.m. tonight – was quietly extended through tomorrow night, without any public announcement, as first reported by the Washington Post. Because of record traffic this morning, the administration wanted to ensure that those that tried to sign up today would have the opportunity to get coverage.
“Anticipating high demand and the fact that consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones, we have taken steps to make sure that those who select a plan through tomorrow will get coverage for Jan. 1,” Julie Bataille, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s Office of Communications, said in a statement in response to press queries.
The record levels of traffic this morning, the highest volume since the site was launched on Oct. 1, is surely a good sign for President Obama and his administration’s signature healthcare plan.
That said, the technical problems millions of Americans experienced this morning is much of the same. These technical issues continue to limit the number of people who can use the site at the same time – a shocking reality considering that the administration has had several months to fix the site, as they promised.
What’s more, in the last few weeks the administration has made some last-minute changes, which has left both insurers and consumers confused and uneasy. For instance, last week the Obama administration said that people whose plans were canceled would be exempted from a requirement that people buy coverage or pay a fee next year. As a result, many are left to wonder what options are available to them.
The upshot of all this is that it is certainly a good thing that the administration is extending the deadline and showing flexibility in addressing consumer needs. But we are still facing sign-up figures far lower than expectations – only 365,000 nationwide signed up for private plans in October and November and totals will fall short of the 3.5 million target the administration set initially – and a technically flawed site that is making it nearly impossible for Americans to take advantage of the healthcare law.
Only time will tell whether the President’s signature legislative achievement is a success, but in the meantime it is imperative that the administration get a handle on this website and make sure the rules are clear. It is doubtful that ObamaCare can be a success with confused consumers and insurers and a flawed website.