By Jonathan Easley - 01/14/14 07:14 PM EST
The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was again extending the ObamaCare enrollment deadline for people with pre-existing conditions.
The administration said it would extend the Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan (PCIP), slated to end Jan. 31, until March 15.
The deadline was originally at the end of December, but last month, the administration pushed it back through January because of the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov.
The new extension is just the latest in a string of unilateral delays the administration has implemented to buy time after the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov.
The Obama administration has so far delayed the premium payments deadline, delayed by one week the sign-up date for coverage beginning Jan. 1, pushed back by six weeks the sign-up date for those seeking coverage by April 1 and delayed the second-year enrollment period until after the 2014 elections.
The $5 billion PCIP program was intended as bridge health coverage to sick patients waiting for the full implementation of ObamaCare. The administration says 135,000 have used the program at some point.
An HHS official told The Hill there are less than 30,000 people still enrolled.
HHS stopped accepting new applicants early last year over fears the program didn’t have enough money to cover those who had signed up.
The American Cancer Society lauded the later deadline, saying it would ensure that sick patients wouldn’t experience a coverage gap.
“Today’s announcement ensures that people with pre-existing conditions such as a history of cancer have lifesaving coverage under the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan through the end of open enrollment,” spokesman Steve Weiss said in a statement. “The extension gives cancer patients and others who had no health insurance options before enrolling in PCIP extra time to choose a marketplace plan that works best for them and their families."