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Health enrollment deadline extended to Christmas Eve

1:40 PM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Affordable Care Act extended, again

The Healthcare.gov website is displayed on a laptop computer arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. The race to construct an online insurance exchange by Oct. 1 spurred the Obama administration to use an expedited bidding system that limited its choice of a builder to just four companies, including CGI Group Inc. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal regulators extended the deadline for consumers to enroll in health insurance until midnight Tuesday, Christmas Eve.

"We recognize that many have chosen to make their final decisions on today's deadline and we are committed to making sure they can do so," said Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille. "Anticipating high demand and the fact that consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones, we have taken steps to make sure that those who select a plan through tomorrow will get coverage for Jan. 1."

HHS programmed its systems to support Jan. 1 coverage for those who attempt to complete their enrollment through the end of the day Tuesday in anticipation of heavy online traffic or other technical issues. Insurers said they did not receive official word of the change although government officials said the move was made in consultation with the industry so consumers could be well serviced. Some compared to the concept of Election Day, when those in line still get to vote.

Healthcare.gov had record-breaking traffic this weekend with more than 1 million visits to the site and 200,000 calls to the call center. Some users experienced long wait times accessing the call center, and others have reported difficulties resetting their accounts after becoming stuck in the system when they tried to sign up in October.

Today is also a busy day at the site, but the queuing system seemed to be working smoothly. Error rates remained low at .45% and wait times averaged fewer than 400 milliseconds.

Despite the delayed deadline, Batallie warned that consumers shouldn't wait until tomorrow. "If you are aiming to get coverage January 1, you should try to sign up today."

Jayne O'Donnell and Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY

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