Obamacare’s Hannukah miracle: 2014 enrollment will last an extra eight days

November 22, 2013

Every day, usually around 2 p.m. or so, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services hosts a half-hour-long call on the status of the insurance marketplace. Now, every day, we here at Wonkblog will update you on what the federal government told us about how Obamacare is going. Without further ado, here is what we learned Friday!

(Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
(Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

HHS is giving shoppers an additional week to buy coverage that starts in January. This was the big news out of today's update, which featured a guest appearance from former administration official and current administration consultant Jeff Zients, who turns up on these calls every Friday.

Health and Human Services has shifted the deadline for purchasing coverage back to Dec. 23 "to give people as much time as possible" to purchase insurance, spokeswoman Julie Bataille told us Friday. The deadline was initially set at Dec. 15, but, since so many people have had difficulty buying coverage, they're moving it back a week. This will only be true in December; in all other months of open enrollment after Jan. 1, the deadline for buying coverage the next month will be the 15th of the month prior.

The key thing to watch here is how well the insurance companies are able to handle this compressed deadline. The whole point of the Dec. 15 cutoff was to give insurers enough time to send out medical cards and get new patients into their system and all those fun things. Now, they've got about half the time that they used to to get these more administrative tasks done.

HHS wants HealthCare.gov to handle 50,000 concurrent users by the end of this month. "The site was originally intended to handle this load and improvements will bring it up to this level," Zients told us. "We will have the capacity that was intended."

HHS will also be implementing what they describe as a "queuing system," to deal with moments when there are too many users on the Web site. In those cases, users will have the opportunity to receive an e-mail from HealthCare.gov notifying them when the site is having lower traffic and would work better.

The Web site is down for maintenance from Saturday night to Sunday morning. Sorry, insurance shopping enthusiasts: You will not be able to use HealthCare.gov from approximately 9 p.m. this Saturday through 9 a.m. Sunday as the site undergoes maintenance.

On the plus side, the federal government is giving you a whole extra week to shop for January coverage in December. So if your Saturday night plans involve shopping for insurance, you get an extra one on Dec. 21. You're welcome, readers.

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