It’s been a rocky start for the Obamacare rollout. Facing mounting pressure and a looming deadline that requires individuals to purchase health coverage or face a fine, the White House is planning to postpone the individual mandate deadline by as much as six weeks, according to NBC News. It is unclear, NBC News reports, whether such a change would need Congressional approval or could be implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Washington Post reports that "administration officials said the change is unrelated to the many problems thatthe marketplace’s Web site, HealthCare.gov, has had in its first three weeks. Instead, they said, the shift relates to what they called a “disconnect” among dates in new rules for buying coverage."
The White House's change-of-plan comes as Democratic lawmakers were looking to delay the individual mandate, the Hill reports. “Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) have signed onto Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's (D-N.H.) push to extend the time in which uninsured people can buy insurance,” according to the Hill. A bigger momentum killer, however, could be Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.V.) planned announcement that he's joining Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) on legislation that would delay the penalty by a year, the Hill reports.
The Christian Science Monitor details the time crunch the White House is facing: “Under the law, Americans must sign up for insurance by early in 2014 – or owe a tax penalty. In effect, the practical enrollment deadline for people buying health insurance on new exchanges is mid-February. The exchanges opened Oct. 1, and people hoping to have coverage in place on Jan. 1 need to be enrolled by Dec. 15.”
From its first moments, healthcare.gov has been beset by technical glitches, as users had difficulty creating accounts and logging in to the system. At first, the problems were chalked up to high demand, but as days turned to weeks, the New Yorker points out, healthcare.gov’s troubles only seemed to multiply as "reports appeared of applications freezing half-completed and of the system 'putting users in inescapable loops, and miscalculating healthcare subsidies.'” Last week, POLITICO summed up the situation perhaps most succinctly: “The Obamacare enrollment website remains badly broken despite two weeks of intensive round-the-clock efforts at repairs.”
This post has been updated.