Obamacare’s Musical Chairs Deadline Passes, What’s Next?

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The deadline for Americans to purchase Affordable Care Act-compliant health insurance beginning coverage on January 1 has finally passed. Originally, the cutoff was scheduled for December 15, but with the design flaws and software problems plaguing the exchanges of 36 that defaulted to federally-facilitated marketplaces, the date was pushed to the 23 of December.

Then, when that day arrived, the Obama administration gave potential exchange enrollees an additional day, in case further technical difficulties obstructed the sign-up process. As Christmas Eve drew to a close, a notice popped up on the federal website healthcare.gov that informed visitors that if they had “run into delays” that caused them to miss the deadline, they should contact a federally-sponsored call center any day this week, except Christmas Day, in order to complete insurance applications. “We still may be able to help you get covered as soon as January 1,” the message said. Plus, deadlines also were flexible for the purchase of insurance via the 14 state-run exchanges.

Much has been made of the passing of this deadline by both supporters and critics of the health care law. As President Barack Obama said in his pre-holiday press conference last Friday, “the basic structure of that law is working despite all the problems” that plagued the insurance exchanges after their October 1 launch, yet December 23 (before the last-minute change) was described as yet another watershed moment for the health care reform.

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