O-Care sign-up deadline delayed

O-Care sign-up deadline delayed
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Federal health officials announced a delay Friday for people seeking ObamaCare coverage that starts on Jan. 1, 2014.


Rather than signing up for health insurance by Dec. 15, as previously required, these users will have until Dec. 23 to choose their plans.

The policies will still begin on Jan. 1, said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Officials at HHS acknowledged that the delay comes in response to ongoing problems with HealthCare.gov, which experienced two unscheduled outages this week alone.

"This extension will allow consumers more time to review plan options, talk with their families … and enroll in a plan," said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokeswoman Julie Bataille.

"We want to give people time to make their decision."

The news of the delay in sign-ups for Jan. 1 coverage follows a separate announcement from the administration delaying ObamaCare's second-year enrollment period until after the 2014 elections.

The move, which the White House confirmed on Friday afternoon, will help distance the sign-up period from the Nov. 4 midterms, which Democrats fear will become a referendum on ObamaCare's botched rollout. 

It is possible that most consumers will not know their 2015 ObamaCare premiums until after they go to the polls because of the shift in dates.

The decision could also set the stage for the administration to extend ObamaCare's current sign-up period amid ongoing problems with the federal enrollment website.

HHS did not mention this possibility on Friday, but confidently predicted that changes made by the end of the month would substantially improve the site's functioning. 

Officials have said many times that work will continue on HealthCare.gov after Nov. 30, the administration's self-imposed deadline for fixing the system. 

Former White House budget director Jeff Zients said his team plans to double the site's capacity to 800,000 possible visits per day in the next week. 

The team will also introduce a "queuing" system to handle spikes in traffic that will tell consumers a better time to come back. 

Asked if these changes will allow everyone who needs coverage by Jan. 1 to sign-up by their deadline, Zients said yes. 

"We think this gives us the capacity to reach everyone we need to reach across this period time," Zients said, adding that other paths to enrollment are also undergoing improvements.