ACA: Race to Enrollment Deadline is Frustrating but Successful

By now, Monday’s deadline to enroll in a valid health insurance plan is old news – as is the eleventh-hour rule change allowing consumers to apply for short-term extensions as long as they have attempted to enroll before March 31.

Many more consumers will fall into that latter category thanks to a last-minute race by thousands to meet the enrollment deadline, a process highlighted by more difficulty accessing state and federal marketplace Web sites.

The online marketplaces went through intermittent overload periods until mid-afternoon on March 31. Consumers at home and enrollment counselors processing in-person applications were shut out of the Web site for long periods, likely due to a software glitch discovered during an overnight maintenance session. Enrollment counselors could do little more than create an account for each consumer so they would be eligible for the enrollment extension.

State-run exchanges faced similar difficulties, as well as similar influxes of consumers looking to beat the deadline. At all levels, consumers that have accessed the marketplace but have not successfully enrolled in a healthcare plan will have a blanket extension until mid-April to complete their enrollment without paying the tax penalty.

Despite the minor Web site setbacks and the decision of many Americans to not enroll in marketplace health plans at all, figures released April 1 indicate that completed enrollments exceeded the Congressional Budget Office’s projected target of seven million to the tune of at least 100,000 additional enrollments. That number does not include Medicaid enrollments in states with expanded eligibility, nor does it include consumers who began the enrollment process but did not yet complete it.

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