ObamacareIndividuals who have started applying for health coverage in federal insurance exchange HealthCare.gov and cannot complete the enrollment process by March 31 can ask for extension until about mid-April. Federal officials confirmed this on March 26, 2014, reports the Washington Post. The new rules will be applied to the federal exchanges in three dozen states. Under these rules, people can qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov. This method is based on the honor system and will indicate a particular person has already tried to enroll into a health plan before deadline. Technically, the new change won’t alter the deadline, but it will help those who face technical difficulties in the enrollment process at the last minute.

The reason why the Obama administration changed its mind about the deadline could be the surge of people trying to apply for health coverage in the final days before the deadline. USA Today reported that the federal officials anticipate a larger volume of last-minute enrollees and they don’t want to penalize those people who stuck upon ‘complex or extenuating’ circumstances that prevent them from finishing the enrollment by March 31, even if the website can handle the numbers. Several factors have been identified as responsible for the delay – the website’s technical problems, inability of applicants to calculate subsidies they are entitled to, need more time to gather family information, understand basic insurance terms, and check if their doctor is within the plan’s network.

As per government figures, around 5.2 million people signed up for private plans through insurance marketplace as of March 1. Washington state announced that more than 12,000 residents were enrolled into health plans in one week which is four times more than their average enrollment, while New York state saw an increase in enrollment by a whopping margin of around 16,000 people in a single week. The measures to manage this surge and give people the opportunity to gain the benefits of insurance marketplace plans even after deadline have been implemented in states like Minnesota. MNsure, Minnesota’s new health care exchange announced new procedures for Minnesotans which will allow them to get coverage and avoid a federal tax penalty even if they don’t finish their enrollment when the deadline expires. In any case, Minnesota enrollment exceeded 136,000 on March 25, exceeding the state’s goal of 135,000 set last October.

The extension of the enrollment deadline will result in more enrollments and the physicians would surely see a surge of patients once the enrollment period ends and coverage starts. Opting for outsourced medical billing services would be a good idea in the circumstances as a professional medical billing company can handle the heavy claims volume and maximize reimbursements.

As per a Health and Human Services official, an actual time frame has not been set for extension period and it will depend on how many people ask for the extension. However, CMS set April 7, 2014 as the deadline for paper applications, which will give people a few days after the original deadline.