Last-minute deadline extension not needed, agents say

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Independent insurance agents and brokers aren’t jumping for joy at the US Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to extend the deadline to purchase health insurance for shoppers who began, but did not complete, the process by March 31.

Monday’s deadline was meant to be a line in the sand following a series of delayed, expanded and canceled deadlines in the rollout of President Obama’s signature healthcare law. Now, customers who tried to apply for insurance but were not successful by Monday’s deadline will have until mid-April to complete the process.

The delay was first leaked to the Washington Post Tuesday night and later confirmed Wednesday morning in response to a media request from the New York Times.

Federal officials have not clarified exactly how long the special enrollment period will be available, but already, producers are protesting that the extension is not needed.

“I could see how you’d want to give a little bit of leeway for people who try to buy insurance during the last week. A ton of people who waited until the very last minute will warm in and the system will be so overwhelmed it will fail,” said Kelly Fristoe of Texas-based Financial Partners. “But really, you’ve had six months, people. If you’re going to wait that long, there’s going to be consequences.”

Neil Crosby, a spokesman for the National Association of Health Underwriters, was more measured in his comments but nevertheless expressed the same sentiment.

“There’s been six full months. I think the agents feel that’s plenty of time, and that they’ve made themselves plenty available,” Crosby stressed.

HHS cited’s poor performance as the reason for the delay. However, Crosby noted that while there have been “plenty of times where hasn’t worked properly,” those days are long passed.

“People have been successfully enrolling for months,” he said.

The federal exchange is not the only site to stay open to customers for another few weeks. In Nevada, Maryland and Minnesota, marketplace officials have announced extensions of up to 60 days in order to compensate for continuing technical glitches.

In these cases, however, producers are generally pleased with the extensions.

“It’s such a long, laborious process and I experience errors every day, all day long,” said Las Vegas agency owner Larry Harrison, who has been struggling with the Xerox-built Nevada Health Link. “I absolutely think [extending the deadline] is the right thing to do. Here these people are doing their best to stay in compliance, and if Xerox was too inept to put together a workable system, they should have an extra few days to get coverage.”

Officials in Massachusetts, Vermont and Oregon are also said to be considering a deadline extension to accommodate late-stage demand.

Even if residents in these states aren’t granted a special enrollment period, many will still have the opportunity to sign up between open enrollment dates this year. Qualifying circumstances such as an out-of-state move, a change in income or a change in employment will allow producers to assist clients through the exchanges, regardless of the date.

Until then, however, the majority of producers remain unhappy.
  • Lewis on 3/27/2014 11:46:52 AM

    What a bunch of lies. No producer ever said, "I'm sick of selling insurance, stop this."

  • Douglas Amenda, CLU, CIC on 3/27/2014 12:19:28 PM

    I was looking for the "not needed" quote in your article and could not find it. Not needed by whom? To require individuals to wait till 2015 to have quality, affordable coverage because they waited till the deadline seems like a punishment disproportionate to the crime.

    If so many in our industry did not spend so much time whining and complaining during the last six months about commission cuts rather than trying to facilitate implementation of the ACA, perhaps there would have been far fewer individuals unaware of, confused by or even afraid of this opportunity and many more who would have obtained coverage by now.

    Is NAHU unaware of the technical problems with the website on March 14th and 15th? Will those issues magically disappear for the March 31st deadline?

    If you want to pretend that all is well with the Marketplace website, fine. If you want to go to the spa on April 1st, please go. But please don't speak for those of us that want to help as many people as possible by moving the "line in the sand" 15 days.

  • brandy on 3/27/2014 12:39:39 PM

    Oh come on a dead line is a deadline. What's the problem according to Harry Reid most people do not know how to use the internet please it's 2014 . What's next the government is going to extent the IRS deadline because people waited until the last minute. That's not happening. Keep stalling they need the votes. Do you really think this helps the industry by the goverment getting involved and creating this this AFCA . Plan B Insurance Company Bail out and less commissions for all!

  • B. Ronnell Nolan, HIA, CHRS on 3/27/2014 1:55:16 PM

    Agents are not saying the extension it is not needed. Those Agents working and assisting people with the new marketplace, understand more time is needed. The system continues to shut down, all day, everyday. However, Agents are unsure that will have the tools in place to be able to assist people with an extension past March 31.

  • Joseph Stringer on 3/27/2014 3:14:13 PM

    A four year old law which promises more coverage with minimal limits for less money? $1 Trillion. A broken website which cannot handle the traffic a small hardware store's website can? $600 million. One more way to destroy the healthcare and insurance industries, plus slow down the economy, plus force companies to lay off employees, plus push more people into poverty, plus increase the power of the IRS? Priceless.

  • Big John on 3/27/2014 4:06:02 PM

    The law used to be the law in this country! What happened to us? The slippery slope of making excuses for one reason and then for another and then for another is what led us down the path our government is on - to ignore the law OUR GOVERNMENT CREATED. Get on with it. This was supposed to put 45 million uninsured people onto the health plans AND we have under 6 million now enrolled -- many, if not most, who WERE ALREADY ON SOME OTHER HEALTH PLAN!!! Anyone in this field knows that many of those now enrolled through the exchanges and getting financial support are people whose income this past year somehow now is lower than last and just gets them into the financial range to qualify for a subsidy! Stop the sham.

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