WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will allow Americans who have begun the Healthcare.gov insurance enrollment process to complete their application after the March 31 deadline, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the Obama administration and several states planned to accommodate people unable to complete the enrollment process due to technical glitches. The Post received confirmation from administration officials on Tuesday that anyone who has begun the enrollment process by March 31 will have about two weeks to request an extension.
An administration official confirmed the latest alteration of the law, while downplaying its impact, in an email to The Huffington Post on Tuesday evening. The official, writing on background, said the extension is similar to a relaxed deadline at the end of December for individuals to purchase coverage for the start of the new year.
"Our systems will allow individuals with special circumstances and complex cases to receive help completing the enrollment process outside of open enrollment," the administration official said. "These opportunities already exist and we will issue guidance that clarifies a limited number of situations where we would accommodate people with complex or extenuating circumstances."
HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said open enrollment ends March 31. "We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment -- either online or over the phone,” she said.
According to the Post, requests for more time are reserved for those who tried to complete the application before the March 31 deadline. Applicants will check a box indicating they made the attempt. The Post reported that the administration would rely on the "honor system" and won't try to determine whether each applicant is telling the truth. An administration official told The Huffington Post that "people will attest to their circumstances as part of the application process."
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the federal exchange, said the move aims to accommodate those who attempt to enroll before the deadline.
“We are ... making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment -- either online or over the phone,” said Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The Obamacare announcement was quickly panned by conservatives, who argued the administration was trampling regular legislative order by making alterations as it pleases.