By Frank Lewis
People wishing to get health insurance through the exchanges set-up by the federal government officially ran out of time on Monday, and some people may have fallen through the cracks by not being able to get through on the 800-number, or at the health care website.
“The rule says you can’t do anything after 3-31, and that is what we are telling people,” Gary Duzan of Portsmouth Insurance told the Daily Times Thursday. “But we have received information that if people call in, say on May 1, and say they tried to get through and couldn’t get through, but still want to sign up for health coverage, they should go ahead and try the 800 number - 1-800-318-2596, and we believe they (government) aren’t going to question them - they are just going to talk to them.”
Portsmouth Insurance received information from the Health Insurance Exchange that intimates that the government might still be able to help those who could not get through before the deadline.
“Although the agency aims for the extension to apply to a limited number of situations, the reality is that anyone can claim they tried to enroll into the exchange before the deadline,” Moody’s analyst Steve Zaharuk says, adding that Health and Human Services (HHS) requires no documentation verifying enrollment attempts.
HHS also expanded the list of special circumstances that would qualify individuals to enroll in health insurance during the special enrollment period beyond the March 31 deadline. That list now includes enrollment errors, misrepresentations and incorrect information displayed on the enrollment website - healthcare.gov.
Kelly Fristoe, an insurance agent in Wichita Falls, Texas, says several people he tried to help enroll on March 31 were asked to provide a call back phone number or email address to the marketplace when they weren’t able to access the website.
“But I also think that just about anybody will be able to verbally claim that they tried to apply without having provided an email address or call back number, and be able to get enrolled,” Fristoe said.
Zaharuk says the more liberal extension of the special enrollment period may give individuals who were considering going uninsured, but suddenly find themselves needing medical care, an additional opportunity to enroll.
Zaharuk also told agents last week’s extension of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment deadline increases the risk of anti-selection, which will likely lead to higher than anticipated losses for insurance companies and higher premium rates in 2015, according to Moody’s. He said the credit rating and research group called the latest extension - “credit negative” for carriers.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.