Feds Extend High-Risk Insurance Pools

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People enrolled in a transitional health plan that covers patients turned away by insurance companies because they’ve been sick before now have an extra month to buy insurance on the new exchanges.

The federal government has extended the so-called Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) for an extra month, after reports that tens of thousands of enrollees have not yet signed up for insurance on the new state and federal exchanges. People will have up to April 15 to sign up for coverage starting May 1.

A Health and Human Services Department Spokesperson called the move "part of our continuing effort to help smooth consumers’ transition into Marketplace coverage."

The 2010 Affordable Care Act says insurance companies can no longer refuse to cover people just because they have a pre-existing condition. It was one of the biggest complaints about health insurance before the law changes — that insurers would look for any excuse to deny coverage.

“We’re pleased cancer patients and survivors with health coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan can keep it for another month, so they can avoid a gap in coverage,” the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network said in a statement, encouraging people to find coverage including through HealthCare.gov as soon as possible.

An estimated 135,000 people were covered by the federal PCIP. The deadline for most people to sign up for health insurance on the exchanges is March 31. HHS says more than 4.2 million people have signed up.