The official deadline for open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has arrived, but it’s more of a soft deadline. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a temporary reprieve for those who still have to sign up for health insurance on the federal exchange.
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Those having issues completing enrollment by March 31 can check a box on Healthcare.gov that indicates they in need of an extension. The Washington Post was first to report of the new feature on the federal exchange. The amount of extra time people will have to enroll is still not clear, but it’s important consumers that are requesting the leeway understand checking the box doesn’t mean they have coverage, and it is still on the individual to complete the process.
Consumers who request an extension will have to detail why they need one, an HHS spokeswoman told FOXBusiness.com in an email message.
“You must attest to your circumstances as part of the application. Keep in mind that individuals must also attest that all of the information they provide in the application is truthful,” she says. “You will attest during the application process, along with other attestations that the information you are providing is truthful.”
While HHS has not set a formal deadline for when those who have requested an extension to complete the process, it urges people not to drag their feet.
“It will depend on how long it takes to cycle through the people who are in the queue. Could be a few days, a week,” the spokeswoman said. “We encourage people to finish the process as soon as possible. We have not announced a date.”
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Those who request an extension are considered “queued” and will receive emails with a better time to come back to the site and complete enrollment.
“We also reach out regularly to people who have started and not completed the process,” the spokeswoman says.
The ACA mandates that every individual in the country enroll in insurance by the end of open enrollment period, or face a fine of $95 a year, or 1% of their annual income for failing to comply. HHS has reported that 6 million people have so far selected plans on state and federal exchanges, but it is not yet clear how many of these people have paid their first month’s premium, which is how the insurance industry typically defines enrollees.