Nightly News   |  December 23, 2013

Health care enrollment deadline extended

The Obamacare website may face its biggest challenge as consumers rush to meet the application deadline, which has been extended by a day. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> in this country there has been another change to the new health care law . you may recall tonight was supposed to be the deadline for enrolling in a new health insurance plan in order to have coverage by january 1. but due to anticipated heavy volume as they like to say, they have extended this deadline, as well. our white house correspondent peter alexander is with the vacationing president tonight in honolulu. peter good evening.

>> brian, good evening to you. to be very clear this is a one-day extension. that means you now have through tomorrow to complete your enrollment. administration officials say they did this to accommodate a record number of visitors to healthcare.gov today. more than 1 million today alone. from washington to virginia to miami, a wave of last-minute health care shoppers. trying to get insurance to finally cover surgery for kidney stones .

>> it's been so bad.

>> reporter: they found the process difficult.

>> i tried to fill out the application online, but it's complicated.

>> reporter: administration officials say consumers in the 36 states that make up the federal exchange should think of this one-day grace period , effectively extending today's deadline through tomorrow, like election day . if you're in line when the polls close, a top official told nbc news, you still get to vote. the pace of sign-ups has surged in recent weeks, with barely 100,000 enrollments in all of october. but more than 500,000 in the first few weeks of this month alone.

>> how many people signed up by december 23rd will really be the first true test of how well this law is working, and in particular how wale healthcare.gov the federal website is now functioning.

>> reporter: but health industry consultants insist the website's problems remain unresolved. warning more than 5% of the applications insurers receive are still flawed.

>> the insurance companies really need two or three weeks to process a normal number of enrollments and they're going to have a week to process an extraordinary number of enrollments, with lots of errors.

>> reporter: making the deadline may be particularly critical for some groups. those in high risk insurance plans that end december 31st . others who lost coverage when insurers canceled their existing plans. and people in states where medicaid is being scaled back. the next deadline, december 31st . premiums are due by then for coverage to begin, but many insurers say they'll give consumers until january 10th to pay. and the last date to enroll to avoid paying a penalty? still three months away, march 31st . when another significant enrollment surge is expected. and we learned today among those enrolling for health coverage, president obama , of course, he doesn't need it. he gets it anyway through the military, brian, but his white house aides tell us that he signed up to show support for the marketplaces. and if you're wondering, his plan will cost nearly $400 a month.