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Effects of Jan. 1 coverage enrollment extension unclear

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Public health insurance exchange programs in 46 states and the District of Columbia have given many, or all, consumers a few extra days to sign up for coverage that starts Jan. 1.

See also: extends Jan. 1 coverage deadline 2 days

A review of public exchange social media feeds, and of consumer postings addressed to exchange managers, suggests that awareness of the glitch extension might be heavy, but lower than on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, for example, 20 people posted comments about the exchange plan enrollment process in response to a Google+ post from the team. Today, posted two posts on its Google+ feed and attracted no pleas for enrollment help.

Many more consumers sent comments via public Twitter posts. Dozens said today that they were having problems with getting through to call center operators. But one consumer said he reached a representative after waiting just an hour.

Twitter users had addressed about 48 tweets at by 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today. That compares with a tweet total of about 120 on Wednesday and about 250 Tuesday, according to a analysis of Twitter search results.

See also: Twitter for insurance agents: 5 quick tips

Managers of MNsure, Minnesota’s exchange, tweeted around 2 p.m. that, at that point, callers were having to wait only a few minutes to reach call center reps.

The number of marketing tweets MNsure, Covered California and other state-based exchange programs sent today seemed to outnumber the enrollment-related tweets they received from consumers.

The third Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) individual major medical open enrollment period started Nov. 1 and is set to end Jan. 31. In most states, the application deadline for 2016 coverage that starts Jan. 1 was originally supposed to be 11:59 Pacific Standard Time (PST) Tuesday. Managers of, the exchange enrollment system the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) operators, agreed to extend the enrollment period to midnight PST today.

Only managers of the exchanges in Connecticut, Idaho, Kentucky and Vermont stuck with a firm Tuesday Jan. 1 coverage open enrollment deadline for all residents, according to Charles Gaba’s blog.

Gaba estimates the exchanges now have about 5 million people who already have, or are officially on track to have, 2016 exchange qualified health plan (QHP) coverage in place Jan. 1.

Consumers who miss the Jan. 1 coverage open enrollment deadline can still buy 2016 coverage with a Feb. 1 start date. Unless an exchange provides some kind of broad extension, consumers who miss the Jan. 31 deadline must either qualify for a special enrollment period to buy coverage or go without major medical coverage until 2017.

Regulators, exchange managers and insurers developed the open enrollment period system in an effort to discourage young, healthy people from waiting until they get sick to pay for coverage. The idea is to expose young, healthy people to the possibility that they may have no coverage, and no immediate ability to buy coverage, if they get sick or hurt outside of the regular open enrollment period.

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