People have an extra day and a half to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act after a series of glitches and computer crashes halted enrollment for parts of the standard six-week period.
Enrollment is open now and scheduled to close again at 3 a.m. Wednesday, Eastern Standard Time. So people across the continental U.S. have all of Tuesday, Dec. 17, to finish enrolling.
Shoppers should not be put off by the healthcare.gov website, which Monday afternoon still had a headline saying “2020 Open Enrollment is over.” On some browsers a pop-up alert noted the extension.
The administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, announced the extension in a tweet Monday afternoon, and CMS posted a news alert. Verma said the point of the extension was “to ensure a seamless shopping experience for everyone seeking coverage.”
Agents who enroll people and private websites that use the CMS enrollment database and call center said they either crashed or were overwhelmed both on the first day and on the last weekend of the sign-up period. The final weekend is a crucial sign-up period that typically sees a rush of business.
“This additional time will give consumers the opportunity to come back and complete their enrollment for January 1 coverage,” CMS said in the posted statement.
“While the website and the call center remained open for business on December 15 with over half a million consumers enrolling throughout the day, some consumers were asked to leave their name at the call center,” it said. “Those consumers who have already left their contact information at the call center do not need to come back and apply during this extension because a call center representative will follow up with them later this week.”
Agents and navigators are also available to help enroll people.
ACA OPEN ENROLLMENT TIPS
People can start with the federal ACA sign-up website, healthcare.gov.
Healthcare.gov also has a phone number with helpers, 1-800-318-2596. For Spanish speakers, the website is cuidadodesalud.gov.
Georgia has a designated navigator organization, which received a $550,000 federal grant to help people sign up. This year it's the Georgia Primary Care Association, which represents clinics across the state. The phone number to talk to a navigator is 1-844-442-7421.
HealthSherpa.com, the only web broker that sticks to ACA-compliant full-coverage plans, has a good reputation for the ease of signing up online.
A large organization that used to be a federal navigator for Georgia, Insure Georgia, is still doing that work but as a charity organization, a nonprofit insurance agency. It has a website with additional information, InsureGa.org, and helpers at its phone number, 1-866-988-8246.
Private insurance agents who are reputable and have experience in health insurance can also be a resource for these plans. A list of them for your geographical area can be found on healthcare.gov.
There is an appeal process for people who try to enroll and can’t. You can leave your name and number with someone at the healthcare.gov call center before enrollment ends. If you’re working online and blocked, take screenshots with the time and date.
ACA ENROLLMENT SO FAR
The federal government reopened enrollment for 2020 health plans under the Affordable Care Act for an extra day and a half. People can now enroll until 3 a.m. Wednesday, Eastern Standard Time. In the latest data available, this is how many people enrolled before the final week, compared with last year:
2018, Nov. 1-Dec. 8 (38 days)
2019, Nov. 1-Dec. 7 (37 days)