(AP photo/Colin Winterbottom)

The Obama administration might consider adjusting at least one Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchange application deadline.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said today during a press briefing aired live on C-SPAN that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services might be working on a fix for the conflict between the PPACA individual health insurance mandate penalty and the end of the open enrollment period..

Under current PPACA public exchange program rules, to get 2014 exchange health coverage in place by Jan. 1, consumers must sign up for coverage by Dec. 15.

But PPACA lets consumers buy exchange coverage on a true guaranteed-issue basis until March 31. After March 31, consumers with health problems might have to wait until the next open enrollment period to buy coverage.

PPACA also requires many consumers to have a minimum level of health coverage in place by March 31.

The law includes many “individual responsibility” mandate exceptions. But consumers who are subject to the mandate and fail to have a minimum amount of health coverage after March 31 may have to pay a $95 penalty or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater.

Some tax experts have said consumers would actually have to apply for coverage by mid-February to have the kind of coverage required by the mandate rules in place by March 31.

Carney said HHS officials want to do something about the conflict between the open enrollment deadline and the tax mandate deadline.

“They are working to align the policies — the disconnect — between the open-enrollment period and the individual responsibility timeframe,” Carney said. 

In response to questions about problems with the HealthCare.gov federal exchange enrollment system, Carney said the administration is focusing on helping consumers get coverage rather than on determining who’s to blame for the problems.

When reporters asked about whether the administration would postpone general exchange application deadlines because of the HealthCare.gov problems, Carney said the country is just three weeks into a six-month enrollment period.

“We’re still early in the process,” and about 500,000 people already have submitted coverage applications through state and federal enrollment systems, Carney said.

“I’m not going to speculate about where we’re going to be in a few months,” Carney said. “We’re focusing on fixing problems now.” 

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