HHS Extends Obamacare Enrollment Deadline, Citing ‘Extraordinary’ Demand

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2015, file photo, the HealthCare.gov website, where people can buy health insurance, is displayed on a laptop screen in Washington. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said in a report released Wednesday, March 30, 2016, health insurers gained a sicker, more expensive patient population through the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansion. Its report offers an early glimpse at customers who have gained coverage in the past couple years. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Andrew Harnik/AP

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday evening that it was extending by two business days the deadline for open enrollment for Obamacare coverage, which was scheduled to close at midnight last night.

Consumers will now have until midnight Monday, Dec. 19, to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1 and avoid paying a tax penalty for not having coverage. The marketplaces remain open for weeks beyond that for consumers to continue to shop, but for coverage dates that start later in the year.

“Millions of Americans have already signed up for coverage and tens of thousands more are in the process of getting coverage today,” Kevin Counihan, CEO of the Health Insurance Marketplace, said in a statement, adding that the marketplace had seen an “extraordinary volume of consumers contacting our call center or visiting HealthCare.gov.”

“Nearly a million consumers have left their contact information to hold their place in line,” he said.

This is not the first year HHS has extended the enrollment deadline. The HHS has continued to tout its outreach and enrollment efforts even as Republicans plan their repeal of Obamacare. GOP lawmakers have signaled they plan to include a transition phase where some ACA programs, including the subsidies available through the exchanges, continue for two or three years. Health policy experts have warned that, depending on what the repeal looks like, the individual market could still collapse in that period due to the uncertainty that repealing Obamacare without a replacement creates.