| WASHINGTON, March 21
WASHINGTON, March 21 The Obama administration
will soon issue new Obamacare guidelines allowing people to
enroll in health coverage after a March 31 deadline, but only
under certain circumstances, according to sources close to the
The sources said the new federal guidelines for consumers in
the 36 states served by the federal health insurance marketplace
and its website, HealthCare.gov, would allow people to enroll
after March 31 if they had tried earlier and were prevented by
system problems including technical glitches.
On Friday, the administration proposed new regulations that
would allow state-run marketplaces new flexibility in setting
insurance coverage effective dates for people who sign up during
special enrollment periods.
President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act requires most Americans to be enrolled in health
coverage by March 31 or pay a penalty. It was not clear how much
of an effort a potential applicant would to make in order to
qualify for a special enrollment period.
Last December, the administration granted special enrollment
periods to thousands of people who were unable to complete
enrollment on HealthCare.gov for coverage beginning Jan. 1.
Similar steps have been expected for the March 31 enrollment
deadline for several weeks.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could
not confirm whether an announcement was expected soon but said
the administration would not neglect people who have problems
"Open enrollment ends March 31. We are preparing for a
surge in enrollment, and if consumers are in line on the 31st
and can't finish, we won't shut the door on them. To be clear,
if you don't have health insurance and do not start to sign up
by the deadline, you can't get coverage again until next year,"
HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement.
The expected move follows similar decisions by state
officials in Maryland and Nevada, where state-run healthcare
exchanges have had difficulty handling enrollee applications and
are likely to leave applicants stranded by the time the deadline
passes in just over a week.
Some states with problem marketplaces had sought to delay
the March 31 enrollment deadline outright. But officials say
they were encouraged instead to follow the special enrollment
model during discussions with HHS. Federal officials said
recently that the government lacks the statutory authority to
delay the enrollment deadline.
HealthCare.gov was overwhelmed by technical glitches for
much of last October and November, the first two months of
Obamacare's six-month enrollment period. Most of those bug have
been worked out and more than 5 million people have signed up
for private coverage through the federal site and 14 state-run
With the enrollment deadline less than two weeks away,
administration officials have predicted a surge of activity that
could test the website's capacities in the final days of the
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Caren Bohan and Andrew