New exchange plan regulations suggest that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could announce more deadline extensions if it or carriers have serious problems with enrolling exchange plan applicants.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said that will be requiring the issuers of the commercial plans sold through the exchanges — “qualified health plans” — to accept the first payment for coverage starting Jan. 1 up until Dec. 31.

Separately, in new interim final regulations set to appear in the Federal Register Dec. 17, CMS has given the formal regulations it is using to move the plan selection deadline for QHP coverage starting Jan. 1 to Dec. 23, from Dec. 15.

In the temporary regulations, CMS talks about the possibility of future changes in at least two places.

In a discussion of the plan selection deadline move to Dec. 23, from Dec. 15, officials raised the possibility of more deadline moves.

“While we do not expect to do so, we will consider moving this deadline to a later date should exceptional circumstances pose barriers to consumers enrolling on or before December 23, 2013,” officials said. 

Later, in a discussion of the procedures CMS used to adopt the new regulations, officials said, “CMS has the legal authority to, by rulemaking, amend the [QHP program deadline] regulation as necessary to impose the requirements that issuers accept enrollments as late as December 23 for coverage effective January 1.”

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner approved the regulation change Dec. 4, and Sebelius approved the change Dec. 5, according to approval information at the bottom of the document. 

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