The Obama administration said people will have another eight days this year to sign up for insurance under the health care law and still get coverage by Jan. 1.
The extra wiggle room announced Friday is important because it could prevent people from having a break in coverage on account of the government's balky enrollment website. That's critical for those losing current individual policies that don't measure up under the law, and also for high-risk patients in a small federal insurance program that ends Jan. 1.
Under the change people will have until Dec. 23 to enroll and still be covered the first of year. Previously the enrollment deadline was Dec. 15.
Officials say the website is improving daily, but it still crashed for a few hours earlier this week.
The Obama administration also announced plans to push back the start of enrollment for coverage under the new health care law by one month, starting next year.
NPR's Julie Rovner tells us via Twitter that White House spokesman Jay Carney says the Department of Health and Human Services "has indicated its intent to shift the 2015 marketplace schedule by one month."
As The Wall Street Journal put it earlier in the day:
The Department of Health and Human Services will allow Americans to start signing up for  coverage starting Nov. 15, 2014, rather than Oct. 15, 2014. .... People will have until Jan. 15, 2015, rather than Dec. 7, 2014, to complete the process.
The White House says that will give insurers more time to prepare their rates. The Journal notes the shift also means "Democrats facing tough re-election races next fall don't have to campaign at the same time as open enrollment is taking place, although some premium information would be already available during the campaign."
According to The Washington Post:
Republicans were quick to pounce on the change, accusing the administration of a blatantly political effort to delay bad news that might result from the next round of open enrollment until after the election. The delay means Americans might not hear about potential rate increases until after the election, rather than in the weeks before.
For ongoing coverage of the health care law, see what Julie and our other colleagues have been posting on the Shots blog.