Obamacare Sign-Ups Extended for Some Amid Long Wait Times Friday

(Bloomberg) -- Some Americans will be given several extra days to sign up for Obamacare insurance plans after the federal enrollment period officially ends Friday, amid long waits on the government’s enrollment phone line.

Friday is the last day that people can sign up for coverage over the telephone or on healthcare.gov, after the Trump administration cut in half the annual sign-up season in states that use the federal enrollment system. At one point Friday, the wait to speak to a representative was 20 minutes. Later, an automated recording told people to leave a message to sign up later.

“A marketplace representative will call you in a few days,” the recording said. “Don’t worry, by leaving your information, you can still get coverage for next year.” The extension is only available to people who start the sign-up process by leaving their name and phone number.

The enrollment period ends at midnight on the West Coast, or 3 a.m. Eastern time, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. People who leave their contact information will be able to enroll in a 2018 plan, the agency said.

“Like in previous years, we have seen an uptick in the volume of consumers on HealthCare.gov and contacting our call center,” the agency said. “As a result, some callers are being asked to leave their contact information so they do not have to wait. We will call them back to assist them.”

Coverage under the Affordable Care Act is expected to decline in 2018 because of the shortened enrollment period and other steps the administration has taken to undermine the law, such as cutting advertising and stopping payments to health insurers that help lower-income people use their plans. Health insurers have raised the rates they will charge next year in response.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.