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PPACA exchange signup deadline pushed back once again

Health Care Reform and Policy
by Chris Merkel
Health insurers say exchange participation too costly for them
Health insurers say exchange participation too costly for them

In recent weeks, the White House has made a number of changes to the ways in which it requires consumers to sign up for health coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's mandated federal insurance exchanges, and yet another one came earlier this week as fears about more glitches for Healthcare.gov lingered.

The fact that the Obama administration committed significant resources to revamping and improving the Healthcare.gov site so that more people could use it simultaneously. However, with the date by which consumers had to sign up to receive coverage at the start of 2014 looming, similar fears once again arose, according to a report from The Associated Press. As a consequence, the deadline was pushed back by yet another day - from Dec. 23 to Dec. 24 - as a means of accommodating the potentially huge number of last-minute shoppers who might have been trying to get in under the wire.

The site has been running smoothly and largely without problems, as fewer than 1 percent of users are now running into the issues that plagued the site in its opening weeks. There were some concerns that a mass of consumers trying to use it all at the same time as the clock ticked down would only bring those glitches back to the fore, the report said. And, while these changes only apply to the states which elected to allow the federal government to run their exchanges, either in whole or in part, many states that chose to operate their own have put similar extensions into place.

A potential headache
Of course, there are critics of these repeated extensions of deadlines, as many within the insurance industry say that this puts a significant burden on companies' processes for handling how coverage is rolled out, the report said. Further, while consumers using the site are largely able to get through the application process without a problem, some problems still persist on the backend, including the data that insurers receive about people attempting to sign up. As a general rule, these companies like to have at least three weeks to get people fully handled, and enrolled with their new coverage. Now, they have only slightly more than one.

Once the new year begins, many health insurance issuers that participated in federal exchanges will likely see their problems ironed out, and might therefore be able to simply enjoy the greater revenues that come from a larger number of people having coverage overall.



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