There have been mixed reports about when the penalty for not having coverage would kick in.
Reports that the deadline to sign up for health insurance has been extended by six weeks are untrue. Consumers have until March 31 to buy insurance and avoid a penalty even though their coverage will begin after that date.
The confusion stemmed from the fact that when consumers sign up for a plan before the 15th of the month, their coverage starts on the first day of the next month. Anyone signing up after March 1 would not receive coverage until April 1, which is beyond the deadline. As a result, it was widely believed that the deadline to be insured and not face a penalty was Feb. 15.
According to Health and Human Services Department spokesperson Joanne Peters, CNN reports, the individual mandate timing has not changed and March 31 is still the deadline by which to sign up for insurance to avoid the penalty.
The administration will soon issue new guidelines to reinforce the timelines.
As HHS officials, including Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, prepare to face Congress to answer questions about the technical difficulties that have plagued the health insurance website, even Democrats are suggesting that it might be a good idea to extend the deadline.
"I believe, given the technical issues, it makes sense to extend the time for people to sign up," said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) in a statement. "In addition, the administration should state clearly how the enforcement mechanism will work if people can't sign up in time."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)