Share This Page

Republicans cry politics as health exchange enrollment dates pushed back

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Republicans cried foul on Friday over an on-the-fly delay in the rollout of President Obama's health care plan. Department of Health and Human Services said it is changing the 2015 open-enrollment period for the federal health care exchanges, according to an HHS official. Although the 2015 enrollment period had been set to begin Oct. 15, 2014, and end Dec. 7, it will now begin Nov. 15, 2014, and end Jan. 15, 2015.

Republicans accused the Obama administration of a blatantly political effort to push the enrollment period until after the 2014 election, which will be held Nov. 4, and delay bad news that might result from the next round of open enrollment.

“Clearly, President Obama does not want voters to see increased prices, more cancellations and decreased options under Obamacare before they go to the ballot box,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. “If Obamacare is so great, why are Democrats so scared of voters knowing its consequences?”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called it a “cynical political move” that means “if premiums go through the roof in the first year of Obamacare, no one will know about it until after the election.”

Some observers suggest there should be plenty of information available about 2015 premiums before the election. This year, 17 states and Washington posted the data publicly before the Obama administration.

“We'll definitely start seeing some premiums earlier from state insurance departments,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

The administration says the change is to allow insurers more time to prepare and submit premiums.

Meanwhile, Jeff Zients, who was appointed by Obama to fix HealthCare.gov's problems, said he is “very confident” the website will be able to handle 50,000 concurrent users by the end of this month.

“The site was originally intended to handle this load, and improvements will bring it up to this level,” Zients said. “We will have the capacity that was intended.”

HHS also will be implementing what it describes as a “queuing system” to deal with moments when there are too many users on the website. In those cases, users will have the opportunity to receive an email from HealthCare.gov notifying them when the site is having lower traffic and would work better.

However, the website will go down for maintenance again from Saturday night to Sunday morning.

In another delay that will help increase enrollment before year's end, HHS announced it is giving people an extra week in December to sign up for coverage that begins right at the start of the new year.

The previous Dec. 15 deadline is going to get pushed to Dec. 23, administration spokeswoman Julie Bataille said. This will be true only in December; in all other months of open enrollment after Jan. 1, the deadline for buying coverage in the next month will be the 15th of the month prior.

For the insurance industry, the announcement complicated the balancing act. Every week, a new edict from the administration sends the companies scrambling. More time for consumers means less time for insurers to verify enrollments and correct errors.

“It makes it more challenging to process enrollments in time for coverage to begin on Jan. 1,” said Robert Zirkelbach of the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans. “Ultimately it will depend on how many people enroll in those last few days.”

Zirkelbach underscored that consumers also need to pay their premiums on time.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.