People with serious illnesses who are enrolled in high-risk, government-run insurance pools will have an additional two months to find new coverage through the state and federal exchanges
“As part of our continuing effort to help smooth consumers' transition into marketplace coverage, we are allowing those covered by PCIP additional time to shop for new coverage while they receive the ongoing care and treatment they need,” HHS
said in a statement announcing it would push back the deadline for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan
Originally, the program was set to expire at the end of 2013. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
, insurers will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, eliminating the need for the state and federal PCIP programs.
But problems with the online marketplaces have made it difficult for many individuals to sign up for new plans. A gap in coverage could be dangerous for individuals receiving treatment for cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses.
Last month, federal officials announced that they would allow the programs to continue through the end of January. Now enrollees will have until March 15 to get coverage. The open enrollment period closes at the end of that month.
The PCIP program was established with a $5 billion appropriation through the federal healthcare overhaul
, and the extension will be paid for with remaining funds. Early last year, enrollment in the plans was suspended because officials projected the funding would run out before the enrollees could get new coverage in the exchanges effective Jan. 1.
Fewer than 30,000 individuals remain enrolled in the state and federal plans, according to HHS. Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko