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U.S. to extend some Obamacare enrollment past March 31 deadline: report

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October
A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration will grant an extension to people who say they are unable to enroll in the new healthcare program by next Monday's deadline, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, quoting federal officials.

The Post said people who started to apply for Obamacare coverage through the HealthCare.gov website but cannot finish by Monday would have until about the middle of April to seek an extension. The administration is scheduled to announce the change on Wednesday, the newspaper said.

People could qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate they tried to enroll before the deadline. The Post said the method would be based on an honor system and that the government would not try to determine if the person was being truthful.

Sources close to the Obama administration told Reuters last week that it would soon issue new Obamacare guidelines allowing people to enroll in health coverage after the March 31 deadline, but only under certain circumstances.

The sources said the new federal guidelines for consumers in the 36 states served by the federal health insurance marketplace and its HealthCare.gov website, would allow people to enroll after March 31 if they had tried earlier and were prevented by system problems including technical glitches.

President Barack Obama's signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, requires most Americans to be enrolled in health coverage by March 31 or pay a penalty. It was not clear how much of an effort a potential applicant would have to make in order to qualify for a special enrollment period.

Last December, the administration granted special enrollment periods to thousands of people unable to complete enrollment on HealthCare.gov for coverage beginning January 1. Similar steps have been expected for the March 31 enrollment deadline for several weeks.

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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