Stung by a brutally messy October for Obamacare, the White House is pushing the start of next year’s open enrollment period past the 2014 midterm elections.
The Department of Health and Human Services tells ABC News that it is delaying by one month the 2015 sign-ups in the health insurance marketplace – from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, 2014. The shift means consumers will not be able to access the marketplace to see plans – or prices – until after votes are cast.
The administration says that it’s making the change for the benefit of insurance companies to allow them more time to “evaluate their experiences during the 2014 plan year… before setting 2015 rates.” Applications for those rates and plans were originally due in April 2014 but will now be due in May.
“Giving health plans more time to submit premium rates for next year will enable them to better assess who is covered in their plans and help ensure those rates more accurately reflect the population covered,” Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans, told ABC News.
Administration officials said the delay would also give states and the federal government more time to make sure their computer systems for enrollment are fully functional before allowing consumers to shop.
But while insurers called the new application deadline a welcome delay, it’s not entirely clear why the open enrollment period for consumers still could not start on Oct. 15, as originally planned.
Some industry experts, citing the likelihood of big premium hikes for 2015, speculate that the administration likely wants to avoid widespread sticker shock just days before an election in which Obamacare is already a contentious issue.
And, if HealthCare.gov experiences more or continued technical problems in 2014, those issues would likely not surface until after polls close, they said.
The change in open enrollment period for 2015 was first reported by Bloomberg News.