People trying to apply and enroll for private health insurance through Obamacare before Monday's midnight deadline discovered the website was "currently unavailable."
Healthcare.gov, the online marketplace bedeviled by bugs since its launch last fall, went down for several hours Monday morning, a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services said. It was back online later in the morning after a short time when it put customers in a "queue," meaning they'd be notified by email when they could proceed with enrollment.
"Consumers may also complete their application by calling the call center at 1-800-318-2596. The federal data services hub is working normally," HHS said.
An administration spokesman said the website is usually offline for maintenance overnight, and was brought down for four extra hours by a technical glitch — not a rush of procrastinators or hackers.
Monday at midnight ET is the deadline to sign up for insurance in the online markets created by President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
Millions of people have piled onto the sites in the last days, and the federal government said as of last week, 6 million people had applied for insurance.
The administration announced an extension for those who had started an application by Monday but didn't finish, perhaps because of errors, missing information or website glitches. HHS says as long as people have gotten in line by Monday, they will be allowed to finish their applications.
The government says it will accept paper applications until April 7 and take as much time as necessary to handle unfinished cases on HealthCare.gov.
First published March 31 2014, 4:15 AM
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.