MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Obama administration has extended the deadline for people wanting to sign up for insurance to meet the requirement of the Affordable Care Act.
Monday’s deadline to sign up for insurance coverage was pushed back to Tuesday because government officials feared heavy traffic on the marketplace provider website healthcare.gov could lead to delays in applications be completed and processed.
Federal officials, however, urged buyers not to procrastinate.
“You should not wait until tomorrow. If you are aiming to get coverage Jan. 1, you should try to sign up today,” said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the federal agency overseeing the overhaul.
Bataille said the grace period was being offered to accommodate people from different time zones and to deal with any technical problems that might result from a last-minute rush of applicants.
The Obama administration said healthcare.gov would be able to handle up to 800,000 people a day.
“”The website is good. People are saying; ‘wow! I am getting better care at a lower cost’,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) New York on Sunday’s NBC “Meet the Press”.
Last week the White House announced another change in the law. People who have had their existing policies cancelled can get a “hardship exemption” from having to pay the fine for going without coverage.
Critics have said the latest change is more proof that a one-year delay of “Obamacare” is needed.
“This whole 2014 will be a transitional year. To find out where our glitches are and our little nuances that we have to work on,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D) West Virginia on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
President Barack Obama shot down that idea before he left for Christmas vacation in Hawaii.
“The basic structure of the law is working, despite the website problems, despite the messaging problems. Despite all that, it’s working,” said President Obama.
The Obama administration said a million people have enrolled for new insurance plans under the law through healthcare.gov. That is still far short of their goal to make the law workable.
The HealthCare.gov site had a disastrous, glitch-prone debut in October, but the government reported on Twitter that it was running smoothly Monday morning.
As the Monday deadline drew new, last-minute health insurance shoppers called help lines and attended enrollment events. More than 1 million people visited the refurbished website over the weekend, and a federal call center received more than 200,000 calls.
The original sign-up deadline already had been pushed back a week because of the technical problems that plagued the federal marketplace for weeks, but hundreds of upgrades to storage capacity and software have cut error rates and wait times.
“It’s just nonstop now. Everybody knows about it. Everybody wants it,” said Florida enrollment counselor Madeleine Siegal. She said her organization in Fort Lauderdale was slammed with walk-ins and appointments Friday, had several weekend enrollment events and opened its doors an hour early on Monday.
Ronald Bellingeri, a 59-year-old general contractor in Florida, signed up Friday in 90 minutes with help from an enrollment counselor. Bellingeri said he waited until the last minute because he didn’t know what to do or where to go.
On Friday, he chose a gold plan with a $156 monthly premium. The government is picking up $472 per month because of his income.
“I just walk in the door and an hour and a half later, I have health insurance. It makes me feel great,” he said.
The open enrollment period to sign up for insurance ends March 31st, 2014. After that, those who are uninsured will have to pay a penalty.
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