In the final days before the federally mandated March 31 deadline by which all Americans had to be covered by some sort of health plan, many were in the throes of trying to sign up for insurance policies that will help them avoid fines. However, the Obama administration recently relented on its claims that no one would be able to obtain an extension on finding coverage, but how these allowances will affect consumers varies.
While there have always been a few groups of people who could sign up for health insurance coverage outside the six-month open enrollment period that began in October - such as those obtaining coverage for their children, or are eligible for Medicaid - for the most part, Americans would not have been allowed to sign up after March 31 without a penalty, according to a report from National Public Radio. There was also some flexibility for people who moved, got married or divorced, or changed or lost a job. Fortunately for people who might have been affected by previous issues with signing up in the last few months, they now have some extra time to do so as long as they've already enrolled in the federal health insurance exchanges.
Another group that may be able to qualify for extensions when it comes to signing up without a penalty are those whose processes were complicated in some way or another by something outside their control, the report said. For instance, those who might have tried to sign up early in the process when the marketplaces were a minefield of glitches and hang-ups might not have seen their information get through to an insurance company, or might have been told they were eligible for Medicaid when they in fact were not. Those people are now able to go back and sign up again.
Will this affect most consumers?
Of course, the number of people who will be able to obtain this kind of extension is fairly limited, and in both cases they would have already signed up for the exchanges themselves well in advance of the March 31 deadline, the report said. For the vast majority of the people who did not sign up in time, their deadline was indeed the final day of the month.
Insurance companies may have benefited from a final push over the weekend to make sure as many people were signed up as possible, as this would boost their bottom lines going forward.