Obamacare has thousands of 'Cinderella' would-be enrollees

WASHINGTON Tue Apr 1, 2014 8:12pm EDT

Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California March 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Call them the "Cinderella customers" - those who tried to enroll in coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare law but were unable to do so when midnight tolled on April 1.

Tens of thousands of Americans are in that position after 2014 Obamacare enrollment officially closed, the heads of two of the most successful state-based insurance exchanges, California and Connecticut, told the Reuters Health Summit on Tuesday.

The Obama administration has offered a grace period for people who tried to sign up in time for Monday's deadline but could not complete the process.

Covered California, the Obamacare exchange in America's most populous state, had "more than 30,000 people" who began an application for health coverage and were told to "come back later," Executive Director Peter Lee told Reuters.

The online exchange expected a high number of users as the deadline approached, he said, and therefore instituted a number of information technology tweaks and other mechanisms to handle it. But the exchange was still caught short and will therefore give the 30,000 two more weeks to complete enrollment.

California enrolled more than 1.2 million people in private health insurance, Lee said. That is roughly 17 percent of the national total of 7.1 million. If California's Cinderellas are nationally representative, then there could be 178,000 people waiting to complete an application throughout the 50 states.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which operates the Obamacare marketplaces for 36 states, did not immediately reply to a question about how many people it estimated might enroll during the post-March 31 grace period.

AccessHealthCT, Connecticut's Obamacare exchange, was able to enroll about half of those who tried to sign up for insurance on the last day of Obamacare's first open enrollment period, which began on October 1.

"We enrolled about 6,000 people last night," Chief Executive Kevin Counihan told the summit, "and we have about 7,000 more in the queue."

That includes people who went to the exchange's two brick-and-mortar retail stores as well as those who were plowing through electronic enrollment but did not complete the process before the calendar turned.

Connecticut's online Obamacare marketplaces were one of the country's most successful technologically, so much so that it is offering its "exchange in a box" software to other states. Yet even it was slowed by the last-minute surge, Counihan said.

"We were having some problems keeping up with demand," he told the summit.

(Reporting by Sharon Begley, Editing by Michele Gershberg and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (8)
js2012 wrote:
ObamaCare deadline has been extended forever; by that time hopefully all Americans will sign up and some world citizens as well!

Apr 02, 2014 11:15am EDT  --  Report as abuse
COindependent wrote:
Enrolled. Does that mean their Visa card was nicked for the first months premium? If not, then that is the same as registering to vote and then not showing up. It’s meaningless.

Call me in July, and let me know how many of the enrolled have made their third premium payment, how many are subsidized, and how many enrolled under Medicaid. When you have those specific numbers, then you will understand the actual “real cost” to the taxpayer. Until then it’s all fluff.

Apr 02, 2014 12:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ARJTurgot2 wrote:
@CO

Oh no, you mean call you when they actually manage to build the back-end process that determines whether people actually qualified for the subsidy they claimed. But that’s a tough project, certainly won’t be done until Dec. 2016 or later. The USG is now officially in the liar-loan business.

Apr 02, 2014 1:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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