Merry Christmas: Obamacare Enrollment Deadline Extended Again

Critics say Obamacare administrators have gotten desperate in their attempts to promote a doomed plan.

Healthcare.gov has delayed the enrollment deadline from Dec. 23 to 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
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Dr. Katherine Hempstead, senior program officer of the research and evaluation unit at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says, "Most people who had plan cancellations in the 2013 non-group market will be able to buy relatively low cost plans in the marketplace that will provide better coverage than what they currently have."Avrik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the incoming Opinion editor at Forbes, said this latest announcement has generated "utter chaos." Roy argued that the price differences between catastrophic plans and the lowest tier, so-called bronze plans available from the insurance exchanges being established under Obamacare, is insignificant enough that people who find exchange plans too costly will find catastrophic plans equally unaffordable and opt for an exemption rather than buying into any plan.By offering more people the chance to buy catastrophic health plans or opt out entirely, President Obama has shrunk the insurance pool of those available to purchase new plans. That could upset the delicate balance of healthy versus ill patients needed to make Obamacare economically viable, said Roy.But Hempstead says that allowing individuals to purchase catastrophic coverage offers another option that will allow them to ultimately transition into the marketplace. "The extent to which this affects insurance markets depends on how many people select this option and how their use of health services compares with others in the catastrophic pool," Hempstead says.Insurers initially set prices for their plans based on expectations of how much health spending would accrue across a population. "This new "hardship exemption" will encourage healthier individuals, whose expected spending would be low, to drop out of the pool. As a result, average spending per enrollee on the exchanges is likely to be substantially higher than the insurers had planned for, forcing them to lose money on their policies," said Roy.[ MORE: Obama Defends Obamacare and NSA, Touts the Economy in Year-End Briefing]These last-minute changes could also confuse individuals who were having difficulty navigating the new health care system, and could prevent some individuals from realizing they are obligated to get coverage, said one Washington Post editorial. "The threat is that, in seeing to the concerns of those who might have to pay more in 2014 or in future years or some other group that feels put upon at some time, politicians will poke so many holes and add so many exceptions that the law is seriously undermined," said the Saturday editorial.Espinoza, an advocate of Obamacare, says the greatest problem with all of these changes is that public education among the people who are most in need of accurate information has been severely lacking. "If they didn't have a clear understanding of what the problem was, how could they have an understanding of what the fix is?"The latest moves come on the same day a poll was released showing that the public believes both that Obamacare is the president's greatest achievement -- and his greatest failure.More News: