Obama administration officials acknowledged Monday that they made an 11th-hour change in rules for the federal health insurance exchange to allow Americans to enroll in health plans through Christmas Eve — 24 hours later than advertised — and still get coverage that begins on New Year’s Day.
The switch occurred in the form of a software change that government officials and IT contractors inserted into the computer system over the weekend for the online insurance marketplace. Anyone who finishes enrolling by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday will have insurance on Jan. 1, the first day it becomes available.
The change is the most recent in a series of policy shifts the administration has made as a milestone approaches for what has been a tumultuous three-month start of the long-awaited opportunity for Americans to buy new health plans under a 2010 law intended to reshape the nation’s health-care system.
Administration officials did not disclose the change to the public or to most insurers participating in the new marketplace before it was reported by The Washington Post…
Asked about the reason for the extra day — and why it was kept secret at first — officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency overseeing the health insurance exchange, at first declined to respond and then issued two statements with slightly differing explanations. Julie Bataille, director of CMS’s office of communications said in the second statement that the official deadline for signing up for Jan. 1 coverage remained Monday, but added: “[W]e have taken steps to make sure that those who tried to enroll today but had delays due to high traffic have a fail-safe.”