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Obamacare delay gives health care procrastinators another day

Did you wait until the last minute to sign up for health insurance?

Updated Monday, Dec. 23: The Obama administration announced on Monday it was giving a one-day grace period to consumers shopping for health insurance under Obamacare. The deadline to sign up for a plan on the health care exchanges was supposed to be today -- but has been extended until Dec. 24.

It’s been a lousy past few days for Joey Cardella.

I feel like I’m just stumbling over this stuff,” he says. “It’s just so frustrating.”

Cardella, a freelance photographer, is talking about looking through his options for insurance under the new federal healthcare law. At 29 and healthy, he’s the sort of customer that every insurer lusts for. But he’s just not sure anything of his options is a good fit for him. 

People are just talking about don’t get health insurance -- ‘Just pay the penalty,’” he says, referring to the penalty that will be levied against people who don’t have insurance. “And to me, that doesn’t really solve anything at all. I want to see a doctor every now and then and know that I’m not going to get screwed over financially if I do that.”

Financial concerns explain why consumers have waited until the final days to sign up. But really -- this is not the drop-dead deadline to avoid a penalty. That’s March 31.

Duke behavioral scientist Peter Ubel says if folks like Cardella can’t make up their minds this week, that may be OK. It’s like trying to remember who sang a particular song, he says.

“The more you try to think about who sang it, the less you are going to figure it out,” he says. “Then when you move the topic on, all of a sudden someone yells, Bruce Springsteen!”

That’s because, Ubel says, when we walk away from something, we are still processing the decision unconsciously. The trouble might be if you walked away from health insurance choices because every option was just too expensive.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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