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Healthcare enrollment deadline extended to Mar. 31

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it will give people who buy health insurance through the new online marketplaces an extra six weeks to enroll for health coverage before they risk a penalty. Kaiser Health News reports. 

"The law currently requires that by Jan. 1 most people must have health insurance.  But the law also allows consumers to be without coverage for less than three consecutive months without a fine, meaning they have until March 31 to get coverage.

"However, to have insurance by then, consumers would have to choose a policy by Feb. 15 to allow enough time for their enrollment to be processed so coverage would start March 1. Most insurance coverage begins on the first of the month.

"With the new administration announcement, consumers can wait until March 31 – when the current enrollment period ends -- to enroll and not face fines.

"Before Wednesday night's announcement, several Senate Democrats had begun to push the administration to delay the mandate due to the ongoing problems with healthcare.gov, which is preventing many people from signing up for coverage.

"On Tuesday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., urged President Barack Obama to extend the health law’s enrollment deadline beyond March 31.  On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said he supported Shaheen’s proposal and added that the administration "should state clearly how the enforcement mechanism will work if people can’t sign up in time."

:News reports Wednesday also indicated that two other Senate Democrats -- Mark Begich of Alaska and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- were also in favor of an individual mandate delay, with Manchin soon to release his own legislation.  Manchin said in an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly Wednesday night that he will offer a bill that will delay the individual mandate penalties until 2015.

"Shaheen, Begich and Pryor are all facing reelection in 2014. 

"But officials point out that change could severely impact the insurance pool. The individual mandate was added to the law to make sure that healthy individuals buy insurance so that it can be affordable for sicker beneficiaries. If only older consumers or those with medical problems were to enroll in the marketplace plans, they would quickly become too expensive. Read more.



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