WASHINGTON (AP) — With website woes ongoing, the Obama administration Monday granted a six-week extension until March 31 for Americans to sign up for coverage next year and avoid new tax penalties under the president's health care overhaul law.
The move had been expected since White House spokesman Jay Carney promised quick action last week to resolve a "disconnect" in the implementation of the law.
It comes as technical problems continue to trouble the website designed as the main enrollment portal for people who don't get health care at work.
As a consequence, Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats as well, are calling for a one-year delay in the penalties most Americans will face starting next year if they remain uninsured. Monday's action by the administration stops well short of that, and amounts only to a limited adjustment.
Under the latest policy change, people who sign up by the end of open enrollment season on March 31 will not face a penalty. That means procrastinators get a grace period.
Previously you had to sign up by the middle of February, guaranteeing that your coverage would take effect March 1, in order to avoid fines for being uninsured.
The extension — granted for 2014 only — addresses confusion that was created when the administration set the first open enrollment period under the law from Oct. 1-March 31.
The problem was that health insurance coverage typically starts on the first day of a given month, and it takes up to 15 days to process applications. So somebody signing up March 16 — well within the open enrollment period — wouldn't get coverage until April 1, thereby risking a penalty for being uninsured part of the year.
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