Dec 17 Rhode Island's new insurance marketplace
said on Tuesday it will extend its deadline until the end of the
year for consumers to sign up for private coverage plans under
President Barack Obama's healthcare law and still get benefits
on Jan. 1.
The HealthSource RI marketplace will let individuals who
select a plan by Dec. 31 and pay by Jan. 6 to be considered
covered on Jan 1. Previously, the deadline to sign up was Dec.
23 nationwide. But Rhode Island was one of the first to extend
the deadline ahead of an expected crush of enrollment.
"This was done to give Rhode Islanders who want health care
coverage to begin on January 1 more time to shop for the plan
that's right for them, and to get enrolled," Dara Chadwick, a
spokeswoman for HealthSource RI, said in an email.
The Obama administration is overseeing the federal
HealthCare.gov enrollment site for residents of 36 states. The
remaining 14 states, including Rhode Island, are operating their
own exchanges and have flexibility to set their own rules. Other
state marketplaces have said they will give consumers an extra
week or two to pay their first premiums.
But technical problems that have dogged HealthCare.gov and
some of the state marketplace websites have raised fears that a
substantial number of consumers who need coverage come Jan. 1
won't be able to complete their enrollment in time.
Last month, the federal government pushed back the deadline
to sign up for January coverage via HealthCare.gov to Dec. 23
from Dec. 15. Last week, the government also urged insurers to
allow people who sign up after the deadline to still get
coverage retroactive to Jan 1.
Maryland's state-run exchange said on Monday that it and
insurer CareFirst agreed to allow consumers until Dec. 27 to
sign up for a CareFirst plan and have coverage as of Jan. 1, and
the exchange was discussing such an extension with other
carriers as well.
Regulation tied to the healthcare reform law also allows for
a special enrollment period for consumers who cannot sign up due
to a problem with the marketplace, or other reasons.
"They are encouraging plans to accept later enrollments, but
requiring it of all plans is a big lift and seems unlikely,"
said Caroline Pearson, vice president at advisory firm Avalere
Health. Rhode Island "may have worked directly with the limited
number of plans in the state to get agreement on this. The feds
wouldn't be able to do that with plans nationwide."