California Extends Initial Obamacare Enrollment Deadline

ASSOCIATED PRESS
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In an unprecedented policy change under Obamacare, California’s health insurance marketplace has extended its initial Obamacare enrollment deadline. The move by California, which has the largest individual insurance market in the country, could potentially influence other states and increase pressure on the Obama administration to extend the deadline on the federal marketplace.

The deadline for enrolling in coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2014, will be moved from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23, Covered California, the California marketplace, announced Thursday. The deadline for premium payments will be moved from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

Dec. 15 remains the deadline for enrollment on HealthCare.gov, the federal website that serves 36 states. The administration has given no indication that it will extend that deadline for the federal marketplace.

The Obama administration has resisted any calls to change deadlines after the site’s troubled launch — though those calls, which came from Senate Democrats and others, were focused on the final enrollment deadline: March 31, 2013.

The March 31 deadline will remain in California, even after Thursday’s announcement.

While California’s marketplace hasn’t had the same problems of HealthCare.gov, the move gives consumers more time to sign up for coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

“The consumer is front and foremost in Covered California’s policy decision process,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said in a statement. “These new strategies will provide consumers a better enrollment experience, more flexibility in the selection of a plan and, most importantly, increased knowledge with which to make the best health coverage choice possible.”

Covered California’s decision to extend the deadline came at the same time that it declined to abide by the Obama administration’s so-called “fix” to Obamacare, which would allow insurance companies to renew existing individual health care police for another year. Covered California is the only state that required insurers to cancel non-ACA-compliant individual health policies effective Dec. 31, if they wanted to sell new policies on the marketplace.

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