The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in 2010 established a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) as a stopgap until the full provisions of the law would kick in four years later. About 85,000 persons who were previously unable to obtain insurance elsewhere are still enrolled in PCIP but must switch to Marketplace insurance, whose policies cover all pre-existing conditions.

Originally, PCIP was to expire at the end of 2013, but the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in December extended the plan until the end of January because of difficulties people were having signing up at Yesterday, HHS extended the coverage until March 31, the last day to sign up for health insurance at the marketplaces.

HHS spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt said in an email to the Washington Post Tuesday that “as part of our continuing effort to help smooth consumers’ transition into Marketplace coverage, we are allowing those covered by PCIP additional time to shop for new coverage while they receive the ongoing care and treatment they need.”

HHS said that PCIP enrollees must sign up for new insurance by March 15 to avoid any gaps in coverage.