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White House Grants Extension For Health Care Sign-Up

Glitches Have Some Concerned Young And Healthy Might Not Enroll

CBS New York (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSNewYork.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSNewYork.com/Health

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Obama administration says it’s granting a six-week extension until March 31 for Americans to sign up for coverage next year and avoid new tax penalties under the president’s health care overhaul law.

Monday’s move had been expected since White House spokesman Jay Carney promised quick action last week to resolve a “disconnect” in the implementation of the law. Technical problems continue to trouble the website that’s supposed to be the main enrollment vehicle for people who don’t get health care at work.

Under the new policy, people who sign up by the end of open enrollment season won’t face a penalty. Previously, you had to sign up by the middle of February, so your coverage would take effect March 1.

Healthcare.gov new homepage (Healthcare.gov)

Healthcare.gov new homepage (Healthcare.gov)

The extension is for 2014 only.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, another major glitch over the weekend prevented people from logging into HealthCare.gov. The repeated problems and delays have some worried they could discourage young, healthy Americans — the vital demographic needed for the Affordable Care Act to succeed — from signing up.

The young and healthy — known in the health insurance industry as the “young invincibles” — have lower medical costs and would help support the costs of older, sicker Americans.

“Everybody’s life is real hectic these days,” said Vince Ashton, CEO of insurance broker HealthPass New York. “If you don’t make it easy for them to take care of it right then and there when they’re thinking about it, you run the risk of not being able to capitalize on that opportunity.”

If the system does not enroll enough young, healthy Americans, a so-called “death spiral” could begin for the program, Ashton said.

“If they’re not paying into that pool as well as the older and sicker people, what happens are premiums continue to rise, and what you find at the end of the day is it becomes unaffordable for everybody,” he said.

In the latest setback for the website, a vendor for Verizon experienced a “failure in a networking component.”

“What you’re seeing here is a gap in innovation and a gap in execution,” said Vivek Kundra of Salesforce.com, a customer relationship management company.

Meanwhile, HealthCare.gov was redesigned over the weekend, and the face of an unidentified, smiling woman that once adorned the homepage during its highly-criticized, botched rollout is gone.

Visitors to the site are now greeted with four images that appear below the heading, “4 Ways to Get Marketplace Coverage.” These point to the four ways to sign up or get more information, via phone, online, paper application or local help.

Image of smiling woman that once adorned Healthcare.gov homepage (Healthcare.gov)

Image of smiling woman that once adorned Healthcare.gov homepage (Healthcare.gov)

Last week, various news outlets wondered who the woman whose smiling face became symbolic with the glitchy website, CBS News reported.

A spokesman from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told BuzzFeed, who kicked off the search, “The woman featured on the website signed a release for us to use the photo, but to protect her privacy, we will not share her personal or contact info with anyone.”

President Barack Obama addressed the issue of site glitches and said his administration was doing “everything we can possibly do” to get the federally run websites up and running.

Obama blamed the website problems in part to an overwhelming response. He said the program doesn’t depend on the website and there are other ways to sign up.

“We updated the website’s homepage to offer more information about the other avenues to enroll in affordable health care until the online option works for everybody,” he said.

He guaranteed that everyone who wants to get insurance through the new health care exchanges will be able to.

Obama also took a jab at Republican critics who have been taking issue with the site, saying many want to see the Affordable Care Act go away altogether.

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