Jan. 15—Despite the new requirement that insurers accept all applicants, the Obama administration is extending a federal insurance pool for people with preexisting conditions.

The Obama administration this week extended for two months the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which was set to expire at the end of January. It was previously extended from its original Jan. 1 expiration.

The need for the Affordable Care Act (ACA)-created program guaranteeing coverage for people with existing health problems was supposed to disappear with the Jan . 1 start of coverage through the health insurance marketplaces, but widespread failures have left many applicants without coverage.

The new expiration date for any of the 135,000 PCIP enrollees who have been unable to obtain replacement coverage coincides with the end of the six-month open enrollment period for the ACA marketplaces.

The program will continue to run through the remainder of the healthcare law's first open-enrollment season, which ends March 31.

“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,” Joanne Peters, an HHS spokeswoman, said in a written statement.

The extension is the latest high-profile change in the $5 billion PCIP program, which had to curtail enrollments in February 2013 after its per-beneficiary costs spiked to more than twice their projections. Those spending increases left the fund to enroll far fewer than up to 375,000 enrollees originally anticipated by the Office of CMS Actuary. 

Publication Date: Wednesday, January 15, 2014