MIAMI (CBS) – Visitors packed the Mall of the Americas Monday night to shop for health insurance.
With the 11:59 p.m. deadline to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act looming, thousands of people filled a vacant store to meet with agents who could help them navigate the often-confusing healthcare.gov.
The website, however, was overwhelmed with last-minute enrollees throughout the day.
“In Miami, we always wait until the last minute, even for the hurricanes,” Caridad Gutierrez said.
She was there to get her son insured.
Another mother, Karla Sandoval, also went to sign up her children.
“It’s very, very important. Especially for my kids, they’re very small. Everybody needs insurance. They really do,” Sandoval told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana.
As the day wore on, it became clear not everyone could be helped.
“I’m sitting here for almost 2 hours for the system. The system doesn’t work,” Rafael Bernal said.
Bernal eventually left without signing up.
Diana Travieso was ready to throw in the towel by 9 p.m.
“If I don’t get health insurance, we’re just going to pay the penalty and take our time and sign up somewhere else,” Travieso said.
Fans were set up throughout the vacant store to keep the growing crowd cool.
“It’s really hot in here. I’m feeling frustrated,” Travieso said. “I was the system was working because honestly we haven’t even been able to log in.”
Organizers with Sunshine Life and Health Advisors say they’ve been working around the clock for the last couple of weeks, but they knew deadline day would be the busiest.
“It’s been a huge demand. We’re very exhausted. We’re hardly sleeping. This is like a warzone when you walk in here,” Odalys Arevalo explained. “We did expect a lot of people to to sign up at the last minute. We’ve seen in the last three days over 8000 people.”
While some left without coverage, others got what they were looking for.
Caridad Gutierrez found a plan to cover her son for just $9 a month.
Maria Torres was quoted $150 a month for coverage, a price she found to be too steep on her budget.
“It’s too much,” she said. “I was expecting $50.”
By 11 p.m., people were still there hoping to squeeze in a last minute enrollment.
According to guidelines released by the Department of Health and Human Services, people who created an account within the system by the deadline will have a bit more time to sign up for a coverage plan.
What’s not clear is what will become of the hundreds of people at Mall of the Americas who tried to create an account, but were kept out of the system due to high volume.
Arevalo said she hopes she can still accommodate them in the coming days.
“We’re hoping for the best and that they’ll be able to get on in the next few days.”