HHS extends temporary health plan for sick patients

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The Obama administration is giving sick patients on a temporary, federal health plan one additional month to find new coverage.

The announcement Friday afternoon will delay the expiration of the Pre-Existing Conditional Insurance Plan (PCIP) until April 30, the plan's third extension.

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The program was due to end on March 31, coinciding with the conclusion of ObamaCare's first open enrollment period. People enrolled in the PCIP now face a deadline of April 15 to enroll in plans that begin on May 1.

From its launch in 2010, the PCIP was designed to offer health coverage to sick patients that had been turned away by insurers.

Lawmakers intended the program to stop at the end of 2013, just as the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions kicked in.

The first two extensions by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allowed patients to maintain their PCIP coverage until January, then March 31.

Advocates for cancer patients praised the latest delay, which was announced on the PCIP website.

"We’re pleased cancer patients and survivors with health coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan can keep it for another month, so they can avoid a gap in coverage," said the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in a statement.

"We encourage patients in PCIP to look at other insurance options, including the health insurance marketplace at HealthCare.gov, as soon as possible so they are assured of coverage beyond the short term."