By Rebecca Shabad - 12/07/13 01:01 PM EST
Federal health officials have been advising ObamaCare counselors this week to stop using paper applications to enroll people — out of fear that the applications wouldn’t be processed in time.
Based on interviews the Associated Press conducted, enrollment counselors and brokers facilitating the insurance sign-up process have been advised by the Obama administration to stop using paper.
Uninsured consumers in the United States must sign up for health insurance by Dec. 23 in order to receive coverage starting Jan. 1.
“We received guidance from the feds recommending that folks apply online as opposed to paper," Mike Claffey, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Insurance, told the AP.
Counselors who spoke to the AP said federal officials discussed the paper application issues on a conference call Wednesday.
“There is still time to do paper applications,” Julie Bataille said.
On Friday, CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration is now directing consumers to the repaired HealthCare.gov, but didn’t explicitly address the paper application.
“With the recent fixes to the website, we are encouraging consumers to use healthcare.gov since it's the quickest way to get coverage, but paper applications remain an option for consumers and navigators if they choose," Albright said, according to the AP.
This shift comes after two months of Obama administration officials highlighting alternative methods to enroll in the exchange as they worked to fix the online federal portal, HealthCare.gov.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been inviting consumers who previously encountered problems with the website back to HealthCare.gov. A week ago, officials said they met the deadline they set to ensure the site would be working smoothly for most users.
Last Monday, HHS announced one million people had visited the site in that day alone.