Another delay has hit a provision of the Affordable Care Act— this time for those with pre-existing conditions.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday it would be extending the enrollment deadline for those who are participating in the Pre-existing Conditions Insurance Plan (PCIP) to March 15 from Jan. 31.
This will be the tenth tweak or delay to the president’s signature legislation since its open enrollment period began on Oct. 1.
HHS says the move is to ease issues for consumers when changing from one plan to another.
“As part of our continuing effort to help smooth consumers’ transition into Marketplace coverage, we are allowing those covered by PCIP additional time to shop for new coverage while they receive the ongoing care and treatment they need,” HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters told FOX News.
PCIP is a transitional program that provided coverage to people with existing conditions starting Aug. 1, 2010 until the federal and state exchanges went live on Oct 1. The law prohibits insurers from denying people with pre-existing conditions coverage or charging them more than those in good health.
The law mandates that every individual in the country must have insurance by the end of open enrollment period on April 1, or they will face a penalty of $95 a year, or 1% of their annual income for failing to comply.
This latest delay isn’t necessarily a bad one, especially for PCIP participants, says Larry Kocot, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“I think it’s a prudent step to protect instability in coverage in a time of transition. This is one of the more vulnerable populations, so we need to make sure there are no gaps in coverage.”
Devon Herrick, senior analyst at the National Center for Policy Analysis, says the move was necessary to avoid the public relations firestorm that would have undoubtedly occurred if this population had been left without coverage.
“To go back out three years ago during the debate, a lot of the argument behind the ACA and the need for it was that these people [with pre-existing conditions] couldn’t get affordable coverage. These are the people that health reform was designed for,” he says. “If they found out on Jan. 1 that they couldn’t enroll, that would look really bad, so politically the administration is trying its best to make sure this group doesn’t face a coverage gap.”
But, it’s also an admission from HHS that there are continued issues with obtaining marketplace coverage, Kocot says.
“This is a sign that there is still instability in transitions and that there is continued work that needs to be done in order to make these transitions more seamless.”