White House Plans to Extend Purchase Deadline for Health Insurance

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The White House has no plans to delay the individual mandate, but apparently it does plan to give everyone a break on the exact date that coverage has to begin:

Amid mounting criticism, the White House said Wednesday that it plans to push back the deadline requiring Americans to purchase health insurance — a provision of the Obama administration’s health care law widely known as the individual mandate — by as much as six weeks, as experts scramble to fix the technical bugs plaguing HealthCare.gov, administration officials told NBC News.

….As the law stands now, individuals are expected to begin the application process via HealthCare.gov by Feb. 15 to avoid a financial penalty. But under the prospective change, individuals will be expected to have started enrollment by March to avoid incurring the penalty.

The current law says you need to have insurance by midnight on March 31. Since the application process takes a while, that means you need to begin by February 15 in order to meet the deadline. Under this new rule, as long as you’ve begun the application process by March 31, you’ll be counted as covered and won’t have to pay a fine.

I’m a little surprised the administration is taking this action so soon. After all, if the Obamacare website is up and running by mid-November, that should still leave plenty of time for everyone to meet the old deadline. This suggests that the White House has already concluded that fixing the online application process is going to be a long slog.

UPDATE: Sarah Kliff has a more detailed explanation here. It turns out the reason for the February 15 date is actually a little more complicated than I suggested. But the bottom line remains the same: under the old rules, you needed to apply by February 15. Under the new rules you need to apply by March 31.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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