(Update 2: NBC is now reporting that the White House could push for a delay on the individual mandate enrollment deadline by up to six weeks)
(Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration is considering a slight change to the enrollment deadlines. Currently, the individual mandate requires individuals to have health insurance by March 31, 2014. But due to processing time, and the fact that enrollments take effect on the first of the following month, the de facto deadline is February 15. An official from the Department of Health and Human Services wouldn't confirm whether individuals who enroll on March 31 will or will not be penalized, but said “We are exploring options currently and will issue guidance at a later date.”)
Original: Some congressional Democrats are breaking party lines, saying they'd be open to extending the Affordable Care Act's enrollment period and, more importantly, delaying the individual mandate. "If the problems are intense as they are this morning, then maybe we would have to consider a short delay in terms of the individual mandate," New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell, told Yahoo News on Wednesday.
Most Democrats are sticking to the script, so to speak, and emphasizing how early it is in the registration process, but the party hasn't been completely united on the individual mandate for a while. In July 22 Democratic representatives joined Republicans in voting to delay the individual mandate for one year. And Pascrell joins Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Sens. Jean Shahaan and Joe Manchin in expressing support for extended enrollment and individual mandate deadlines.
During an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, Wasserman Schultz said "there should absolutely be an openness" to extending the open enrollment period, though she didn't comment on the individual mandate. Last month Manchin made headlines when he supported a one year delay of the individual mandate (and today he announced that he's working on a bill to delay the individual mandate for one year). Yesterday Shahaan became the first member of her party to call for an extension of the enrollment period in a letter to President Obama. Shaheen also called on the administration to be more open about plans to extend the individual mandate.
As we noted yesterday, the administration has two options for extending the individual mandate if healthcare.gov isn't fixed my mid-February — issue blanket exemptions in states without working exchanges, or wait for Congress to pass a bill to delay the mandate indefinitely. Either way, a delay of the individual mandate might reduce enrollments, especially among the healthy and young, severely impacting the health insurance industry and possibly crippling the law. Politically the president can't afford to delay the mandate, but it doesn't look good if Democrats are breaking from party lines and publicly agreeing with Republicans.