THIS IS IT: We've entered the Final Surge (for most states)...

Signups for the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period have been lagging behind on HealthCare.Gov until this week. Nevertheless, as happens every year, things are heating up as people scramble to #GetCovered ahead of tomorrow's deadline.

Joshua Peck was the head of marketing for HealthCare.Gov under the Obama Administration and is now one of the folks in charge of Get America Covered, a third-party organization devoted to filling in ever since the Trump Administration's CMS (deliberately) dropped the ball. He's been checking in on all week and keeping folks abreast of the server load/wait time/hold time situation. There were some serious issues a couple of days ago but it sounds like they've finally gotten straightened out:

7:40 AM ET and the @HealthCareGov call center already has a 20 minute wait to speak to a representative today.

— Joshua Peck (@JoshuaFAPeck) December 14, 2018

Due to surging demand, the @HealthCareGov call center is now taking names and numbers. Call now (800) 318-2596 and give them your name, so you have the ability to enroll after the deadline if you run into any problems. #GetCovered

— Joshua Peck (@JoshuaFAPeck) December 14, 2018

There's nothing unusual about CMS instructing people who experience lengthy hold/wait times to leave their information for a callback. What is unusual is that they made this announcement back on December 11th...several days earlier than they've ever done before:

CMS Statement about 2019 Health Insurance Exchange Open Enrollment  

“Our primary goal is to provide a seamless open enrollment experience for consumers and ensure that those who want coverage offered through the Exchange can enroll in a plan. As in past years, we have seen an uptick in the volume of consumers using and contacting our call center as we get closer to the December 15 deadline to select a plan for the upcoming year. Yesterday we experienced the highest traffic of this Open Enrollment. With the exception of a brief waiting room on December 10, the website has performed well, consumers have been able to easily access enrollment tools to compare plans and prices, and the call center consumer satisfaction rate has remained at 90 percent. We continue to encourage consumers to make plan selections by that deadline so that their coverage can begin on January 1. Consistent with previous years, as we get close to the deadline, some consumers who are calling the Marketplace Call Center may be asked to leave their contact information and will be allowed to enroll in a plan after the December 15 deadline. This will allow these consumers to come back and complete their enrollment for January 1 coverage.” – Attributable to a CMS spokesperson

On background: 

  • Some consumers who call the call center to enroll, will instead be prompted to leave their contact information in the final days heading into the December 15 deadline.
  • Consistent with previous years, people asked to leave their contact information with the call center will be contacted after Dec 15 to complete their applications and plan selections.
  • All consumers who leave their contact information will be able to enroll in a plan with January 1 coverage.
  • Consumers who are not prompted to leave contact information will be able to speak with an agent and enroll. Not all consumers will be asked to leave their contact information.

The business about Monday the 10th having the highest traffic of this Open Enrollment period doesn't really mean much, of course; web traffic and enrollments always start to surge in the final week, so it's normal for 12/10 to be higher than the 39 days which preceded it. However...fair enough.

In any event, the final deadline to enroll in the 39 states which are hosted via HealthCare.Gov is tomorrow (Saturday) at midnight...unless you leave your contact info or qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Tomorrow is also the deadline in five additional states (Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Vermont and Washington State).

Residents of the remaining 6 states (+DC) have later deadlines, although it's still strongly advised to enroll by the December deadline in order to avoid a coverage gap in January:

  • Connecticut: Saturday, December 15th at midnight
  • Idaho: Saturday, December 15th at midnight
  • Maryland: Saturday, December 15th at midnight
  • Vermont: Saturday, December 15th at midnight
  • Washington State: Saturday, December 15th at midnight
  • California: Jan. 15th, 2019 (enroll by tomorrow for Janaury coverage)
  • Colorado: Jan. 15th, 2019 (enroll by tomorrow for January coverage)
  • Rhode Island: Dec. 31st (enroll by Dec. 23rd for January coverage)
  • Minnesota: Jan. 13th, 2019 (enroll by tomorrow for January coverage)
  • Massachusetts: Jan. 23rd, 2019 (enroll by Dec. 23rd for January coverage)
  • District of Columbia: Jan. 31st, 2019 (enroll by tomorrow for January coverage)
  • New York: Jan. 31st, 2019 (enroll by tomorrow for January coverage)