Acknowledging many people may have been confused about the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration announced a special enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 for those who didn’t buy insurance in the most recent open-enrollment period.
The move came after congressional Democrats expressed concern their constituents might only now, during tax preparation season, be learning about the ACA’s penalty for not buying health insurance. The special enrollment period allows individuals to sign up for coverage and avoid having to pay the penalty again next year.
Implementing a special enrollment period that follows the open-enrollment period defeats the purpose of having open enrollment, says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow and health care researcher for the National Center for Policy Analysis.
“If people are allowed to enroll when they choose, the incentive is to wait until you need care before enrolling,” Herrick said. “This de facto coverage would destabilize the insurance markets.”
Adding to Enrollment Numbers
In addition to avoiding the political consequences of people being required to pay the penalty for being uninsured, the administration is extending the sign-up period to get more people enrolled, says Dr. Roger Stark, a health care policy analyst at the Washington Policy Center and a retired physician.
“They tried to set up a defined enrollment period, but didn’t get as many people signed up as they anticipated,” Stark said. “So they needed to extend the enrollment period to get more people to sign up.”
Scaring people into enrolling doesn’t work if they are unable to enroll, says Greg Scandlen, a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, and the founder and director of Consumers for Health Care Choices.
“Like everything else with the Affordable Care Act, deadlines, fines, subsidies all seem to be completely malleable at the whim of the secretary of Health and Human Services,” Scandlen said. “And this may be the most frightening aspect of the law: It is not a law at all in the usual sense of the word.
“The secretary has unlimited authority to do anything she wants, whenever she wants to do it, and no constraint on the money she spends,” Scandlen said.
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) is a freelance writer for The Heartland Institute.