UPDATED 04/01/14 12:15 a.m.
WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) —The deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act passed at midnight Monday night.
At 11 p.m., it appeared that the Affordable Care Act would meet its target of 7 million enrollees. But earlier Monday, millions of Americans were still struggling to enroll as they worked against the clock.
As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, in the Bronx Monday, there was a line to sign up.
“I’m getting insurance for myself,” said Paul Brown of Yonkers. “It was on my calendar to come here and make sure that this was possible last minute – but I’m here, and today’s the deadline, but we’re here.”
Sign-ups have lagged, and the Obama administration was hoping for a last-minute surge.
“Human nature is kind of to wait ’til the last minute to get things done,” said City Councilman Andy King (D-12th.) “But fortunately when that happens, we want to make sure that the door is open; opportunity is here.”
But on the last day to sign up, there was another embarrassing glitch for HealthCare.gov. It was down for six hours Monday morning and again Monday afternoon.
“There is a technical problem that the tech team is on,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. And it forced people to go sign up in person.
Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright said technicians identified an issue affecting consumers trying to create new accounts. As a result, new users couldn’t access the system, but the problem was later resolved.
Albright said more than 100,000 people were using the system at the same time.
The phone lines were also jammed Monday.
“We are currently experiencing very long wait times due a surge in demand for marketplace coverage as the end of open enrollment approaches,” a recorded message said.
Earlier Monday morning, visitors to HealthCare.gov saw messages that the site was down for maintenance. At times, visitors were also directed to a virtual waiting room, a feature designed to ease the strain on the site during periods of heavy use.
Albright said the website undergoes “regular nightly maintenance” during off-peak hours and that period was extended because of a “technical problem.”
He did not say what the problem was, but a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services called it “a software bug” unrelated to application volume.
Officials said the website wasn’t hacked. The site, which was receiving 1.5 million visitors a day last week, received about 2 million a day over the weekend.
Albright said the website is typically down for maintenance during the period from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. EDT, and that as a result of the technical problems the site was down for close to four additional hours before returning to full strength Monday morning.
The sign-up website had been taken down briefly Friday, with consumer interest surging. Lately the site has been getting about 1.5 million visits a day.
The deadline to sign up for those living in states that chose to use the federal online marketplace is Monday night at midnight.
While Monday is the deadline, it is not the deadline for everyone. The government said if you started the signup process on Monday, no penalty will be issued.
But if you did not, you face a $95 fine for the first year.
“Next year, it’s going to be $325, and then in 2016, it’s $695 – after which it will be adjusted for inflation every year,” said certified public accountant Adam Baruch.
There is one other exception to the Monday night deadline. You can qualify for a special enrollment period of you have a life-changing event such as getting married, having a baby, or moving to a new state.
You can sign up online by going to HealthCare.gov or your state insurance exchange. If you don’t know what your state marketplace is called, HealthCare.gov will direct you.
You can also call 1-800-318-2596 to sign up by phone or get help from an enrollment specialist.
States that set up and run their own online insurance marketplaces, including New York and Connecticut, have set their own deadlines. Both New York and Connecticut’s online marketplaces set the same deadline as the federal website.
New York’s health care enrollment website posted an alert warning residents if they do not sign up before the deadline, they may not be eligible for coverage until 2015.
Access Health CT says it received more than 2,100 calls to its call center between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday, while the marketplace’s website is averaging 600 to 1,000 visitors at a time throughout the day.
The call center’s staff has quadrupled since open enrollment began in October.
In New Jersey, open enrollment in the exchange ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday.
Get Covered America New Jersey spokeswoman Alescia Teel says organizers in her group are seeing several people sign up on the spot at events hosted by community groups Monday.
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.
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