The government announced on December 15th, late in the evening, that the deadline to apply for an insurance plan that will begin on Jan 1st is now December 17th. The reason for the extension is clear – millions of consumers who tried to enroll in a health insurance plan either through the Federal Marketplace or through brokers and agents online or on the phone, were met with very long wait lines. The government attributes this simply to the overwhelming number of Americans who came out to grab new health insurance plans for the New Year.
This new deadline, which is also called “Special Enrollment Period” or SEP, only applies to people who live in a state that uses the Federal Marketplace. If you live in a state that runs its own State Exchange, you may also have an extension to enroll in a plan with a January 1st start date. You can check the here for more information on those eligible states.
If you still need health insurance coverage or still want to switch to a new plan that will start on Jan 1, you can enroll directly on the Federal Marketplace or State Exchange, or you can enroll through a private health insurance marketplace, either online or on the phone.
The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) originally estimated that more than 20 million people would enroll in health insurance during the 2016 Open Enrollment Period. If the wait lines during this enrollment period’s first major deadline are any indication, those estimates may be met, if not surpassed.
As to why so many people need health insurance and are enrolling during the 2016 Open Enrollment Period, it’s anyone’s guess. Many people speculate that the introduction and exit of a number of health insurance carriers and the plans they offer may be a big reason why people would find themselves either totally without coverage at the start of the 2016 calendar year, or curious whether there was a plan and a carrier that would be more affordable and that would better meeting their family’s medical needs than the plan they currently had and ready to shop and enroll in a new plan.