New York: This was unexpected...NYSoH extends January deadline to 1/18 for Feb. coverage

Back in mid-December, just about all of the ACA exchanges bumped out their enrollment deadlines for January 1st coverage by a few days. I was mildly surprised because improvements in the bandwidth, coding, layout and support staffing have meant a smoother process towards the big last-minute surge. Still, I wasn't blown away by the development or anything, as mid-December has always seen a massive spike in enrollment.

On the other hand, this announcement by the New York State of Health exchange is very surprising:

New Yorkers Now Have Until January 18 to Enroll in or Renew Health Insurance Coverage Beginning February 1

Consumer Demand Remains High Prompting Deadline Extension

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 12, 2017) – NY State of Health, the state's official health plan Marketplace today announced that consumers now have three additional days to enroll in a health plan with coverage starting February 1. The deadline has been extended through 11:59 p.m., January 18. The previous deadline was January 15.

"As we near the end of our Open Enrollment period, consumer demand remains high, so we want to be sure New Yorkers have ample opportunity to enroll in a health plan for February 1, 2017," said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “Extending this deadline gives consumers more time to find and enroll in a plan that meets their needs.”

As of December 24, 2016, more than 3.4 million people have enrolled in health insurance through the Marketplace. Since the last Open Enrollment period ended, January 31, 2016, participation in the NY State of Health Marketplace has increased more than 22 percent. In addition, enrollment has increased in all 62 counties of the state, and the overall share of New Yorkers now enrolled through the NY State of Health has reached nearly 18 percent of the state’s population.

NY State of Health offers a variety of plans to choose from and is the only place where consumers can get financial help to pay for coverage. Many consumers buying plans through the Marketplace will qualify for increased financial assistance in 2017 to help make coverage more affordable.

Unlike the December and final deadlines, the mid-January deadline has been pretty quiet the past couple of years; I was only expecting a mild bump this year as well. On top of everything else, the 15th falls on a Sunday this year, and weekends usually see a drop-off in enrollment regardless of anything else going on.

I have no way of knowing whether New York's 3-day extension is indicative of a large surge in other states, but it's possible. With Donald Trump's inauguration coming up just 6 days from now and the Republican-controlled Congress moving full speed ahead with ACA repeal plans, it's possible that this is the first sign of a panic attack surge. If so, the final spike the last week of January could be more dramatic than I'm currently expecting it to be.

Stay tuned...