The Department of Health and Human Services has pushed back yet another Obamacare deadline, this time extending the life of a federal insurance program that began in 2010 and was only supposed to continue until Dec. 31.
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance plan (PCIP) was launched in 2010 to provide stopgap coverage for those that needed it until Obamacare officially launched. Health and Human Services (HHS) first pushed the date back to January 31 and announced Tuesday evening that they’ll now extend the coverage until March 31, the final day of Obamacare’s open enrollment period.
Similar to the exchanges, some states run their own versions of the high-risk pool program, while others are part of a federal program. PCIP currently covers less than 30,000 participants between states and federal branches.
“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 spokeswoman Erin Shields said in an email Tuesday.
The deadline delay is another tacit admission from the Obama administration that to date, Obamacare exchanges across the country haven’t performed well enough for those who need health insurance.
The high-risk pool was supposed to immediately provide services for those with pre-exisiting conditions, serving as a rallying cry for Obamacare supporters to tout that Americans were already reaping the benefits of the health care law.
But the program was slated to end Dec. 31, providing only interim coverage to those that needed it most urgently until exchanges opened. The administration seems to have expected PCIP patients to have successfully transitioned onto an exchange plan instead once Obamacare marketplace plans officially went live on Jan. 1.
But HealthCare.gov’s massive technological difficulties and the unfinished back-end of the site — in addition to ongoing tech problems for state exchanges — may have caused HHS officials to extend the coverage until the site was working properly.
The Obama administration has delayed a host of deadlines throughout Obamacare implementation. Officials repeatedly pushed back the final enrollment deadline for January 1 coverage in the face of HealthCare.gov’s tech issues, attempting to allow more consumers to navigate their way through the federal website.
Currently, however, insurers are required to accept high-risk patients with pre-existing conditions — and those with PCIP have had over three months to purchase insurance on the Obamacare exchanges as well.
But the administration is significantly behind in enrolling Americans in Obamacare marketplace coverage. HHS released its most up to date numbers Monday, which tallies the number of consumers that selected a plan on an exchange through Dec. 28 at just under 2.2 million.
That number doesn’t include the final number of Americans that went through with the purchase and paid their premiums.
Kaiser Health News reports that the extension will be paid for out of existing program funds, but over $4.7 billion of the $5 billion appropriated for PCIP has already been spent.
Here’s a list of other Obamacare deadlines the Obama administration has unilaterally extended:
1. The employer mandate was pushed back until 2015.
2. The enrollment deadline for January 1 coverage pushed back first to December 15; then December 24.
3. The launch of Spanish-language federal exchange, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, pushed back from October 1 to December 10.
4. Online enrollment for the federal small business exchange, SHOP, was delayed until November 2014.
5. After outcry over millions of insurance cancellations due to Obamacare regulations, the administration attempted to delay the plans cancellations until 2015, but many states and insurance companies rejected the delay.
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