Nightly News   |  October 23, 2013

White House to delay health insurance penalty deadline

The Obama administration is sliding the deadline for individuals to be required to buy health insurance by as much as six weeks. Former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt warned about potential Obamacare glitches in July, after having been part of the Bush White House’s technical setbacks during the Medicare Part D roll out in 2006. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> good evening. we are starting off with breaking news out of washington. details of this are still coming at us and we want to begin with nbc 's tom costello who has been covering all of this since day one. he's in our d.c. newsroom tonight. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian . the white house tells nbc news that it plans to move the penalty deadline for individuals to be requireded to buy health insurance by as much as six weeks. as the law stands right now, to avoid a tax penalty the uninsured need to start the process by february 15 . with this change the administration is trying to allow people to buy insurance all the way up to march 31 to avoid that penalty. meanwhile the work to fix the website is a top priority . 23 days into a very rocky rollout for the affordable care act , ceos from the country's top insurance companies were today troubleshooting at the white house as the website problems persist.

>> start filling out the application through paper and pen, if anything.

>> reporter: today we returned to a miami clinic where a thousand people have tried to enroll. so far only five applications have gone through.

>> we are going to try again to get them through the system. if that's not working we'll have them fill out a paper application or apply over the phone.

>> reporter: on cnn last night hhs secretary kathleen sebelius dodged the question about whether she might resign.

>> i think my job is to get this fully implemented and get the website working right and that's really what i'm focused on. in july former hhs secretary mike leavitt met with the administration and wrote an editorial urging the white house to learn from our mistakes. the bush white house also ran into technical glitches when rolling out medicare part d in 2006 , seniors not able to get their prescriptions.

>> we were a bit unprepared for the imperfections.

>> reporter: leavitt says he doesn't like obamacare but now says too many people would be hurt if it doesn't work.

>> i think they have about a month to get it fixed. if they get it fixed people will move on. if they don't it will characterize and brand forever obama care.

>> reporter: meanwhile in some states customers that are getting through are experiencing sticker shock.

>> they thought this was going to be less expensive than what was available today and in michigan, for example, we are about 40% on average higher than the already low cost plans we had in the market already.

>> reporter: tomorrow, congressional hearings into what's gone wrong with the website. nbc news learned the lead federal contractor cgi will testify that the website passed eight technical reviews prior to going live on october 1. but also the that a late government decision to require customers to register their personal information before they could check insurance prices, contributed to the glitches that have the websites tied up. but again brian the white house intends to move the february 15th penalty deadline for individuals to be required to buy health insurance . before if you hadn't signed up by february 15th there would likely be a penalty now they want to make sure that anyone who signs up by the enrollment deadline of march 31st doesn't face a penalty, brian ?

>> tom, thanks