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Insurers and PPACA exchanges do enrollment time warp again

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Health insurers and public exchanges have been quick to jiggle the enrollment deadline for the second annual Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) major medical open enrollment period.

Open enrollment for 2015 started Nov. 15 and was set to end Feb. 15 in most of the country.

In theory, consumers who failed to get covered for 2015 by the end of the day on Sunday could have had to qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP) to buy 2015 coverage, make do with medically underwritten short-term health insurance, or go uninsured until 2016.

Health insurers and regulators created the open enrollment period system to discourage consumers from waiting until they get sick to pay for coverage.

To keep sicker consumers from flocking to public exchange plans, or to off-exchange plans, the system applies to all individual major medical coverage, whether it’s sold inside or outside the exchange system.

See also: 3 benefits sellers size up the market

The first PPACA open enrollment was supposed to start Oct. 1, 2013, and end March 31, 2014. Exchange managers reacted to severe enrollment system technical problems by extending the enrollment period for about two weeks in most of the country and for far longer in some states.

This year, managers of HealthCare.gov, the enrollment system for exchanges created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and some state-based exchanges, say consumers who started the application process by Feb. 15 and were affected by enrollment system problems or mailing delays have until Feb. 22 to complete the application process.

Managers of most state-based exchanges have made similar enrollment period adjustment announcements, and insurers have created their own off-exchange enrollment deadline adjustments.

For a look at what insurers and exchange managers are saying about enrollment deadline adjustments, read on.

Compass

1. Off-exchange coverage

A private Web broker entity, eHealth Inc. (Nasdaq:EHTH), the parent of eHealthInsurance.com, says it knows of 28 states with at least one carrier that’s still taking applications for off-exchange coverage.

Here are the deadline dates for those states’ late-application takers:

Feb. 23: Massachusetts.

Feb. 24: Louisiana.

Feb. 25: Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.

Feb. 28: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York , Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Sylvia Burwell

2. HealthCare.gov exchanges

HHS has created a one-week extension for consumers who say they were already “in line” to get covered by Sunday.

Some Democrats have been asking HHS to provide additional relief for consumers who first learn about the PPACA individual coverage mandate, and the tax penalties, when they do their 2014 taxes. Otherwise, those consumers may have no chance to avoid having to pay penalties for 2015, advocates of a special enrollment period extension say.

The PPACA penalty rate is set to rise to 2 percent of income for 2015, from 1 percent for 2014.

Stanley Dorn, an analyst at the Urban Institute, says in a commentary that extending the 2015 open enrollment period until April 15 would probably let some healthy people enroll. But it also could give people who get sick or injured from Feb. 16 to April 15 a chance to sign up for coverage after they already know they have big medical bills, and it could hurt public exchange efforts to explain the open enrollment period system to consumers, Dorn says.

See also: Lawmakers’ exchange pans enrollment proposal

Image: HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell (HHS image)

 USA

2. State-run exchanges

Most state-based exchanges seem to have made at least some effort to keep the enrollment deadline door from slamming down on consumers’ fingers, but the news coming out about what earlier PPACA rule adjustments have done to health insurers’ earnings may affect the generosity of the adjustment efforts.

Here are the state-based exchange announcements we’ve found.

California: Covered California

Consumers who started to enroll in Covered California coverage by Feb. 15 can complete the application process by Feb. 22 with the help of a certified enroller.

Colorado: Connect for Health Colorado

Managers of the Colorado exchange said through Twitter that their representatives will work to complete the enrollment process “over the next few days” for consumers who started the process by Sunday and were unable to complete it.

Connecticut: Access Health CT

Managers of Access Health CT said in an announcement released through the exchange Twitter feed that consumers who started applications by midnight Sunday can complete their applications over the next few days with help from Access Health CT employees.

District of Columbia: DC Health Link

Managers of DC Health Link say D.C. residents who had problems with enrolling because of online glitches, call center delays or long lines at enrollment centers can still get exchange help with having exchange coverage in place by March 1.

Hawaii: Hawai’i Health Connector

Hawaii Health Connector has not announced any enrollment deadline adjustments. 

Idaho: Your Health Idaho

Idaho consumers who submitted applications by midnight Feb. 15 will have until 11:59 p.m. Mountain Standard Time Feb. 21 to select their insurance plans and pay for coverage, officials say.

Kentucky: kynect

A winter storm kept managers of kynect from announcing any enrollment period adjustments early on, but they are now offering an extension until Feb. 28 to consumers who had any problems using the exchange enrollment site or reaching enrollment centers.

Maryland: Maryland Health Connection

Maryland exchange managers say consumers have until Wednesday to finish an existing application for coverage that starts March 1, and until Feb. 28 to finish an application for coverage that starts in April. 

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Health Connector

Massachusetts exchanage managers have responded to the many feet of snow that fell on their state by pushing the enrollment deadline for coverage that starts March 1 back to Feb. 23.

Minnesota: MNsure

Consumers who were “in line” to enroll by midnight Feb. 15 have until Feb. 20 to complete the enrollment process.

New York: NY State of Health

Managers of New York’s exchange say residents who were in line to apply for coverage by Feb. 15 have until Feb. 28 to complete the process. The coverage purchased from Feb. 16 through Feb. 28 will start April 1.

Rhode Island: Healthsource RI

Rhode Island exchange walk-in registration centers were closed Sunday because of snow. Consumers who say the center closings kept them from enrolling qualify for a special enrollment period that runs until Feb. 23.

Washington state: Washington Healthplanfinder

Managers of the Washington state exchange say they will help consumers who learn about the PPACA tax penalty by offering all state residents a special enrollment period that will run from today through April 17.