Democratic Senator Seeks Health Care Extension
by Kate Rogers
October 23, 2013
One Democratic lawmaker is calling on the White House to extend the open enrollment deadline for Obamacare after the government's botched website rollout.
New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wrote in a letter to President Obama that the issues associated with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's exchanges are "incredibly frustrating and disappointing."
"For over three years, we have been waiting for the creation of the health insurance exchanges, which now in their fourth week of existence, are riddled with problems," Shaheen said in the letter, first reported by POLITICO.
Shaheen also wants the administration to clarify to Americans whether they will face a fine for not having coverage by the end of the open enrollment period which is currently March 31, 2014. As the law currently stands, uninsured individuals will face a penalty of $95 per year, or 1% of their annual income when enrollment season ends.
The senator said that extending the registration time would allow people to become more familiar with the website and be in a better position to pick the right plan.
"As website glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to educate and enroll people in insurance plans. I also fear that people that have tried, and failed, to enroll online may become frustrated and not return to the website to try again at a later date," the senator wrote.
Devon Herrick, senior analyst for the National Center for Policy Analysis, says despite the glitches, people should still have time to enroll in a plan.
"I don't see it being an insurmountable problem for people to sign up during that six-month period [of open enrollment]," Herrick says. "With the mandate, you can't fine or penalize people for not being able to enroll. Democrats may want to give people longer to enroll."
Then again, Shaheen's letter could be more political posturing than anything else, he says.
"She is up for reelection in one-and-a-half weeks, so this may be something to report on and certainly won't hurt," he says.
But until the exchange issues are resolved, it's hard to say whether the open enrollment period or individual mandate start date will be pushed back, he says.
"As a rhetorical measure, I could see discussions about pushing back the mandate by an equal amount of days as open enrollment, if that were pushed back," he says. "I can see the two policies going in tandem."