People who have been trying to sign up for health insurance on the new Obamacare exchanges may be able to buy themselves some time beyond the looming March 31 deadline, administration officials said Tuesday night.
But White House officials balked at calling the move an extension, saying it was more like letting people vote past the time the polls close if they were already in line.
“If you are in line when March 31 deadline passes, you will be helped,” White House spokeswoman Tara McGuinness said on Twitter.
Earlier, administration officials said more than 1 million people visited the Healthcare.gov website in a single day on Monday.
“Open enrollment ends March 31. We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment — either online or over the phone,” Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement.
People will be able to ask for the extra time as part of the enrollment process, according to officials.
The Obama administration has moved or stretched out several deadlines for enrolling in health insurance on the exchanges, a centerpiece of health reform under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The federal government and supporters of health reform are pushing hard in the last few days before open enrollment closes to get as many people to sign up as possible.
So far, the administration says about 5 million people have signed up for health insurance on the exchanges. Most qualify for federal subsidies to help pay the premiums. It’s not clear how many of those signing up went without health insurance before.
About 15 percent of Americans don’t have health insurance and one of the big aims of the law is to get them covered so they will receive regular medical care. Those who don’t have some sort of coverage by March 31 will have to pay a tax.
First published March 25 2014, 7:28 PM
Maggie Fox is senior health writer for NBC News and TODAY, writing top news on health policy, medical treatments and disease.
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She's a former managing editor for healthcare and technology at National Journal and global health and science editor for Reuters based in Washington, D.C. and London.
She's reported for news agencies, radio, newspapers, magazines and television from across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe covering news ranging from war to politics and, of course, health and science. Her reporting has taken Maggie to Lebanon, Syria and Libya; to China, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan; to Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia and to Ireland and Northern Ireland and across the rest of Europe.
Maggie has won awards from the Society of Business Editors and Writers, the National Immunization Program, the Overseas Press Club and other organizations. She's done fellowships at Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland.