Pro-Obamacare lawmakers and activists are urging the Trump administration to allow a grace period for open enrollment so that people who have trouble using healthcare.gov are able to finish their applications.
The Trump administration has not said if it will allow a grace period, but an announcement about a final decision may not come until Friday.
During the 2015 and 2016 open enrollments, the Obama administration announced extensions on the same day as the deadline. The decision was made in 2015 to extend the deadline by two days because of "unprecedented demand," and in 2016, the deadline was extended by four days as about 1 million people left their names at the call center to keep their place in line.
The final days of open enrollment tend to bring a surge of visitors and applicants to healthcare.gov and onto call lines, causing delays and sometimes telling users that they will need to return later, or allowing them to leave their information to receive a followup. Obamacare customers, who do not get health insurance through a government program or through work, have until 3 a.m. EST Friday to sign up for plans.
Under the Obama administration, people who were on the healthcare.gov site close to the deadline and experienced some delays were given a grace period so they could obtain coverage.
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have asked the Trump administration to allow a similar grace period. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., asked the administration to extend the deadline until the end of January so that it would be in line with previous deadlines. Groups such as Get America Covered and the Center for American Progress have advocated for similar extensions.
The later deadline gave customers more time to sign up, and it allowed them to change their healthcare plan if they were automatically enrolled into one they didn't like.
The Obama administration planned to shorten the open enrollment period to 45 days beginning in 2018, but the Trump administration moved it up a year. As a result, all customers' coverage begins Jan. 1, but enrollment numbers could be lower than in past years. Lower enrollment contributes to higher premiums and insurer exits from the exchanges in later years.
So far, signups on healthcare.gov have outpaced previous years, but advocates are concerned that fewer people will know about the deadline and that people will be unable to afford premiums, which have increased for people who do not receive subsidies. Healthcare.gov is the exchange that 39 states use. Some states, such as California and New York, have their own exchanges with later deadlines.
“Consistent with our aim to have a seamless open enrollment experience for consumers this year, the website is performing well and consumers can easily access enrollment tools to compare plans and prices," a CMS official said. "The deadline for people to shop and pick a plan for the upcoming year is Dec. 15. We continue to encourage people to make plan selections by that deadline so that their coverage can begin on Jan. 1.”