WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will push back by six weeks the deadline for enrolling for health insurance without facing a penalty, a change officials say is intended to clarify a series of mismatched deadlines outlined in the law and not a response to problems with its insurance website.
Consumers will have until March 31 to sign up for insurance without paying a tax penalty in 2014, the White House announced late Wednesday. That date was already the end of open enrollment, but under the individual mandate rules it was not clear whether consumers who waited that long to enroll would still face penalties.
In announcing the change, officials cast the move as a clarification and not a reaction to the embarrassing glitches and technical problems with www.healthcare.gov, the website created to link the insured with affordable, private insurance plans.
A growing group of critics and some administration allies have been calling on the White House to push back the deadline further or delay the individual mandate.
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In a note to Democratic lawmakers Wednesday night, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s office told members that the administration was not budging. “This is simply conforming dates. This is not a delay in the individual mandate.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, people who go without insurance for three consecutive months can face a tax penalty. That meant that uninsured consumers had to sign up for insurance by Feb. 15 in order to be insured by March 1 and avoid paying the penalty in 2014.
Open enrollment, however, doesn’t end until the end of March, leaving an awkward gap. The new guidance makes clear that people who enroll by March 31 will not face the tax penalty.
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