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CMS Confident as HIX Deadline Nears

Christopher Cheney, for HealthLeaders Media, March 26, 2014

After stumbling at the starting line, federal officials are pushing for a strong finish in the inaugural open enrollment period for the new public health insurance exchanges. And they're offering some individuals a deadline extension.

In contrast to the fall's nearly disastrous rollout of the federal government's public exchange website, HealthCare.gov, a hopeful spring appears to be dawning.

As Monday's open enrollment deadline to obtain individual policies on the exchanges approaches, the Obama administration has reported a signup surge.

With about 800,000 people enrolling in the first two weeks of March, more than 5 million individuals have obtained health insurance policies through the exchanges, federal officials say.

On Tuesday night, federal officials confirmed that consumers who have started but not completed the enrollment process by the March 31 deadline will have the option of requesting an extension. As recently as March 12, in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius rejected the prospect of a deadline delay.

Unless there is an enrollment flood in the final two weeks of this month, the exchanges will fall well short of the 7 million enrollee goal set by Sebelius last July. But officials at the federal agency administering the exchanges are sounding a confident note about the sustainability of the new markets.

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