March 27, 2014

AP’s Alonso-Zaldivar Claims Millions ‘Could’ Get Extra Sign-up Time. COULD?

Tuesday evening, in covering a White House announcement, the Washington Post reported (“Obama administration will allow more time to enroll in health care on federal marketplace”) that “all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.” The operative word is “will”

Given that well-known news, I had to check the time stamp on Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar’s report Wednesday afternoon at the Associated Press. Yep, it really says March 26 at 5:21 p.m., roughly 20 hours after the White House’s announcement. So why is his story’s headline “Millions could get extra time for health sign-ups”? And why is his first sentence “Millions of Americans could get extra time to enroll for taxpayer-subsidized coverage this year under President Barack Obama’s health care law”? The extension is an announced deal, good buddy, and million of people are affected. More follows the jump:

That would let the administration boost sign-ups and aid Democrats under attack over the program’s troubles.

The Health and Human Services Department Wednesday posted two documents that outline “special enrollment periods” for broad groups of people trying to access the new online health insurance markets.

Those who’ve started an application, but weren’t able to finish before the March 31 open enrollment deadline, would get a limited amount of time to sign up for coverage that would take effect May 1.

What’s the deal with “would”? Is AP trying to get its subscribing print, online, and broadcasting outlets to hold off on reporting the new development as certain to minimize its exposure? This is a real head-scratcher.

It doesn’t get any easier in later paragraphs:

Additionally, people with 10 general categories of “special” circumstances would also get extra time to apply – up to 60 days. Categories include natural disasters, system errors related to immigration status, computer error messages due to technical difficulties, family situations involving domestic abuse, and other sorts of problems.

“We won’t close the door on those who tried to get covered and were not able to do so through no fault of their own,” Julie Bataille, communications director for the health care rollout, told reporters.

She deflected repeated questions on whether there is a hard deadline beyond which the administration won’t take applications.

Officials said the grace period for people who’ve started applications by March 31 will be available on the honor system.

Now all of a sudden in the last excerpted paragraph, the narrative changes to “will” instead of “would.”

Is this just incredibly sloppy writing by Alonso-Zaldivar, a complete misunderstanding of what went down, or some kind of indication that despite what it has promulgated, the administration isn’t done deciding who will and won’t get an extension?

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