MONDAY, March 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Today is the deadline
for most people to sign up for health insurance under the
Affordable Care Act, the controversial healthcare-reform law.
More than 6 million Americans have already signed up for
insurance coverage through online "marketplaces" created by the
law, federal officials said on Thursday.
Earlier last week, the Obama administration said that Americans
who've started applying for health insurance but can't complete the
process by the March 31 deadline will be given an extension.
Administration officials said the extension was being offered
partly out of concern that the federal online registration website,
Healthcare.gov, could become overwhelmed as last-minute registrants
scrambled to meet the original March 31 deadline or face a penalty
in the form of a tax.
And that seemed to be the case early Monday morning as the
website struggled with high user traffic. Some visitors to
HealthCare.gov were met with messages that the site was down for
maintenance. At times, visitors were sent to a virtual waiting room
-- a feature created to ease the strain on the site during periods
of heavy demand, the
Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said the website was
back online shortly before 9 a.m., Eastern time, the
The troubled unveiling of HealthCare.gov last fall is still
fresh in many people's memories, as computer glitches and software
problems made the website almost unusable for long periods of time.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act pounced on the troubled launch,
which was deeply embarrassing to President Barack Obama. The health
reform law, sometimes called Obamacare, is considered Obama's
signature domestic achievement.
The federal website, which serves 36 states that do not operate
their own registration websites, has been operating well for
months, according to White House officials. But it had more than 1
million visitors each day several days last week. With the prospect
of high visitor traffic leading up to March 31, the Obama
administration said it wanted to avoid a repeat of last fall's
problems with the website.
Administration officials did not specify how long the extended
enrollment period would last.
With some exceptions, people who are uninsured for most of 2014
may have to pay a penalty during next year's tax season under
provisions of the controversial law. The maximum penalty for 2014
is $95 per adult and half of that for children (up to $285 for a
family of three or more) -- or up to 1 percent of household income,
whichever is greater.
According to the White House, one of the main objectives of the
Affordable Care Act is to expand access to affordable health care
options. The law led to the creation of the online marketplaces, or
exchanges, where people in each state and the District of Columbia
may compare health plans and sign up for coverage.
The Congressional Budget Office initially projected that 7
million people would sign up for health coverage in 2014. It later
lowered its estimate to 6 million.
Once the enrollment deadline passes, most Americans won't have
another chance to sign up for coverage until the next open
enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15. Coverage purchased during
that time won't take effect until 2015.
Want to learn more about what income levels qualify for lower
insurance costs? Visit
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