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As Deadline Nears, Obamacare Enrollees Can Get More Time

 / Updated 
Image: A man is silhouetted behind a sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event hosted by Planned Parenthood for the Latino community in Los Angeles, California
A man is silhouetted behind a sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event hosted by Planned Parenthood for the Latino community in Los Angeles, California September 28, 2013. With weeks to go before the March 31, 2014 enrollment deadline, the Administration and community groups have been reaching out to enroll more Latinos. JONATHAN ALCORN / Reuters

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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.

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