Health & Medicine

Fact check: Does Obamacare enrollment end Dec. 15? Viral Facebook post is misleading

A viral copy-paste post circulating on Facebook since the weekend looks to warn fellow users about the shortened Obamacare open enrollment deadline this year, but for millions of Americans and all Californians, that warning is inaccurate.

The post appears intended to spread awareness that the open enrollment period for Affordable Care Act health care coverage for 2019 ends Dec. 15, 2018. That is indeed the date you’ll see if you try to enroll for health coverage at

However, 11 states and D.C. offer health coverage through individual marketplaces, and more than half of them have extended their deadlines beyond that date anywhere from Dec. 31 to Jan. 31.

So far, D.C. and six states — California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island — have done so.

The other five states — Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Vermont and Washington — can potentially extend their deadlines last-minute. None of them had done so as of Wednesday.

In most cases, enrolling after Dec. 15 means your coverage will kick in later than Jan. 1. Check with your state’s marketplace to be sure.

Covered California enrollment for 2019 started Oct. 15, rather than the Nov. 1. start date used by the other 49 states.

The recent viral post also self-admittedly attempts to trick Facebook’s algorithm by starting with two sentences unrelated to ACA: “Congratulations! Huge life announcement that I’m so excited to share with you all!” As explained in the post, “We are posting this and using the word Congratulations so it gets posted more frequently, via the FB algorithms.”

Details on how Facebook’s news feed algorithm operates are largely a secret.

Rumors that the word “congratulations” helps trigger Facebook date back to at least 2014, according to a story by The New York Times; however, the claims regarding “congratulations” being used as a trigger word for Facebook’s algorithm say that the word must be used in the comments section, not the main post.

In fact, other words and phrases within the post (such as the plea: “Please *COPY AND PASTE* and post publicly”) may actually be flagged by Facebook as spam, burying the posts in news feeds instead of bolstering them. Facebook’s algorithm changes often, usually without any public notice.

Here’s a look at a few of the other statements made within the Facebook post that’s been making the rounds.

“If you don’t act by December 15, you can’t get 2019 coverage unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.”

For states with a Dec. 15 deadline, this is true for ACA coverage. Qualification for a “special enrollment period” typically requires proof of a life event such as moving, marriage, birth or adoption of a child, loss of health coverage or loss of employment.

“The 2019 ACA (Affordable Care Act) enrollment period has been shortened from 90 days to 45 days.”

The ACA enrollment period through was shortened to 45 days (Nov. 1 to Dec. 15) last year for 2018 coverage. From 2015 through 2017, the enrollment period was roughly 90 days.

Due to Covered California’s early start date, California’s enrollment period has not been shortened for either the 2018 or 2019 coverage years.

“Someone you know may desperately need health care and the smaller the pool, the higher the premiums.”

This is not always the case. According to the American Academy of Actuaries, premium costs are dependent not just on the size of the pool, but on the average health care costs of the people in the pool.

“Just as a pool with healthy individuals can result in lower-than-average premiums, a large pool with a large share of unhealthy individuals can have higher-than-average premiums,” a frequently asked question page about risk pooling on says. “Attracting younger adults and healthier people of all ages ultimately will help keep premiums more affordable and stable for all members in the risk pool.”

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