Health care site put to the test as deadline nears

by CARLA K. JOHNSON, AP Medical Writer

alt

FILE - This Dec. 20, 2013, file image shows part of the HealthCare.gov website in Washington, that notes to enroll by Dec. 23 for coverage starting as soon as Jan. 1, 2014. Anticipating heavy traffic on the government's health care website, the Obama administration effectively extended Monday's deadline for signing up for insurance by a day, giving people in 36 states more time to select a plan. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)


CHICAGO (AP) — The government's revamped health care website was put to its biggest test yet as a record-breaking surge of Americans rushed to beat Tuesday's extended deadline for signing up for coverage.

After a disastrous, glitch-plagued rollout in October, HealthCare.gov, the website where people in 36 states can shop for insurance, received nearly 2 million visits Monday and handled the traffic well, the government said.

Monday was the sign-up deadline for people wanting coverage at the start of the new year. But the Obama administration pushed back the deadline a day to deal with expected heavy traffic from procrastinators.

The grace period was the latest in a series of delays that have marked President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Critics of the law seized on the extension as more evidence that the program is in trouble.

"The amazing, ever-expanding deadline? It's clearly a sign of desperation by the administration to do everything they can to increase the number of people signing up," said health economist Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare for President George H.W. Bush.

The law's supporters said the extra day means the public got the message and wants subsidized health insurance.

"A lot of people who previously found health care unaffordable are learning they can get very substantial subsidies that bring premiums within their reach," said Ron Pollack, president of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group leading efforts to get uninsured people signed up for coverage next year. "That's why we're seeing a large influx of people trying to get enrolled."

The website went through extensive hardware and software upgrades to make it more reliable and increase its capacity.

When the number of simultaneous users reached 60,000 on Monday, site operators employed a queuing system that allows people to either wait or give an email address to be invited back later, the government said. More than 60,000 users gave their email.

Many states operate their own online marketplaces for buying coverage, and some of them also extended their deadlines.

The insurance industry, too, has pushed back deadlines for payment, with most health plans allowing customers to pay by Jan. 10 and still get retroactive coverage to Jan. 1.

"With deadlines that keep changing, insurers want to alleviate confusion," said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans. "Health plans are going to do everything they can to help consumers with the enrollment process."

Obama said Friday that more than 1 million Americans had enrolled for coverage since Oct. 1. The administration's estimates call for 3.3 million to sign up by Dec. 31, and the target is 7 million by the end of March. After that, people who fail to buy coverage can face tax penalties.



More Local

Plant Yates to shut down coal units by mid-April

Georgia Power Plant Yates will officially stop burning coal no later than April 15. Units 1-5 have already stopped being used for “nor ... Read More


Grey Matters dinner filled with insight, laughter

The Grey Matters dinner event, held at The Newnan Centre on Friday, brought a unique perspective to those in attendance. Cowetans were given ... Read More


major bills still in play

Legislative session almost over

The 2015 Georgia General Assembly session is almost over. There are two more “legislative days” in the session: Tuesday and Thur ... Read More


NTH Turns 150

Family of editor Cates visits first lady

Adolphus Boardman Cates, who published The Newnan Herald for six years in the late 1800s, was a man with many business interests. In additio ... Read More


Locals preview PBS cancer miniseries

Last week, board members of Lights for Linda Luminarias visited the Atlanta Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to preview a summar ... Read More

West Coweta home damaged by fire

No injuries were reported after authorities responded to a West Coweta house fire on Saturday evening. About 7:00 p.m., the Coweta County Fi ... Read More