Nearly 7 million people have signed up for private insurance plans under President Barack Obama’s beleaguered health care law, reflecting a crush of enrollments just days before Monday’s deadline, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The surge comes even after federal officials announced Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by March 31, would have until about mid-April to ask for an extension, the Washington Post reports.
The Post says the extension applies to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states. It does not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.
While current enrollment figures match the Obama administration’s goal for the March 31 deadline, the law still faces major obstacles, experts told the Tribune. Many say it will take years before the law reaches its goal of creating stable insurance markets that will help reduce the number of uninsured Americans, the paper says.
The president’s signature health care law has been plagued with delays and technical glitches since its October rollout. But the president has said that much of the confusion has been smoothed out now. Still, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that coverage is not expected to reach its peak of 37 million people until 2018, the Tribune reports. At that time, nearly 25 million people would be enrolled in the marketplaces, 12 million through Medicaid or its sister health plan, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The Republican Party plans to use the law’s long maturation cycle as a weapon during the midterm congressional elections in November. Members plan to focus on public dissatisfaction with the law to help the party gain control of the U.S. Senate and maintain its dominance in the House of Representatives, the Tribune reports.
Efforts are already in motion. Republicans and some Democrats have separately proposed election year changes that could appeal to voter concerns and would greatly alter the law.
Proposals include making health insurance optional and returning sick people to high-risk pools, the report says. A handful of Senate Democrats last week also rolled out some Republican-like ideas that would allow insurance to be sold across state lines, discontinue the employer mandate for many small businesses and allow low-premium, high-deductible plans to be sold in the marketplaces, the report says.