Given all the problems associated with the launch of the health insurance exchanges, it appears the Obama administration is adjusting the individual mandate. Such a decision could dramatically affect insurers because they would have to wait longer to boost their membership rolls.
Under healthcare reform, consumers must apply by Dec. 15 to have health coverage by Jan. 1. But the White House confirmed that March 31--the last day people can purchase health insurance on the exchanges--has always been the enrollment deadline to avoid a tax penalty, Marketwatch reported.
But all the technological problems with the federal exchange website so far have prevented people form signing up. If the Obama administration doesn't resolve the glitches soon, millions of people might not be able to get coverage--through no fault of their own--but they would still get penalized for not complying with the individual mandate, reported Bloomberg.
To account for the time lag in processing applications, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is shifting the "need-to-be-insured" deadline to late April or May, Marketwatch noted.
Conflicting media reports about the delayed deadline vary between six weeks and two months, and some report it's not a delay at all, reported Politix.
The Obama administration largely is remaining silent on the question. When the press repeatedly asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney whether the Obama administration would postpone the mandate, he wouldn't provide a direct answer, the Washington Post reported.
However, he implied the administration might be considering a delay when responding to a question about whether the exchange problems would lead to flexibility for the individual mandate, according to Fox News.
"Whatever conclusions you draw about the way the law is written, I think you can draw," Carney said. "The law is clear that if you do not have access to affordable health insurance, then you will not be asked to pay a penalty because you haven't purchased affordable health insurance."