WASHINGTON, March 31, 2014 —Healthcare.gov was not available on the last day for enrollment.
The troubled Affordable Care Act website stumbled again early Monday, going out of service for nearly four hours on deadline day. After the site came back online, officials continued with their promotional drive to get people to sign up.
Those who went on the site early Monday morning experienced a flashback to the early days of the Obamacare website when they saw a message that the site was down for maintenance. Other visitors trying to sign up on the last day were directed to a virtual waiting room. The waiting room was added to ease the strain on the site during periods of heavy use.
Spokesman for the Obama administration, Aaron Albright, told the Associated Press that the website was brought back up shortly before 9 a.m.,and people who missed their window to sign up will still be able to take advantage of a grace period announced last week as long as they start the sign up process today.
Albright continued with the explanation of the site being down this morning by saying that the site undergoes “regular nightly maintenance” during off-peak hours and that period was extended because of a “technical problem.” He did not clarify what the problem was, but a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services called it “a software bug” not a problem due to applicant volume and that anyone who left an email address will get a message letting them know when the system is back up and running.
The federal site provides service for 36 states. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are running their own health care exchange sites, some of which have also been hampered by technical problems.
Despite the troubled start on the last registration day, the administration and the additional states appear to be on track to surpass their goal to sign up six million people by the close of business today, with totals closer to 6.5 million people coming in.
That number will still will fall short of the initial goal of seven million that was set before the rollout of the disastrous website in the fall which was reduced after the website was kept offline for most of the month of October.
The 6.5 million refers to the number of people who have sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act and not the number of people who have made their first payment of their new plan. Many feel that the unreported number who has made the first payment is a better indicator on the success or failure of President Obama’s health care law.
The sign-up website had also gone down briefly on Friday, reportedly to prepare for the surging traffic over the weekend as the deadline approached.
Long lines have been reported at centers which offer in person help with enrollment for those who either do not have access to computers or those who have been unable to navigate the sign up process themselves.
Members of the Obama administration are expected to spend their day in a campaign to get people to sign up similar to the “get out the vote” efforts in years past; conducting interviews with local radio and television stations around the country.
Although today, March 31, is the last day officially to sign up for health care and not incur a penalty, millions of people could be eligible for one of the numerous extensions that have been granted over recent weeks by the administration.
The most recent extension is for those who begin registering prior to the deadline but are unable to complete that process due to technical errors, like the one this morning.
The government has said that it will accept paper applications until April 7, 2014. Extension rules in states that have their own health care exchanges may be different.
Other excuses for an extension without a tax penalty are natural disasters, domestic violence and mistakes by insurance companies or application counselors.
In order to obtain one of these extensions, a person should contact the federal call center, at 1-855-889-4325, or the state marketplace and explain their situation. If the extension is approved, the applicant will earn another 60 days to enroll.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.