Health care website stumbles on last day

One error message seen by many trying to sign up for the Affordable Care Act on the day of the deadline. (March 31, 2014)
One error message seen by many trying to sign up for the Affordable Care Act on the day of the deadline. (March 31, 2014)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration says a new technical problem briefly prevented last-minute users from signing up on the government’s health insurance website. The new problem comes as traffic is surging on deadline day.

Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright says 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 are using the system at the same time.

Monday is the deadline to sign up for private health insurance in the new online markets created by President Barack Obama’s health care law. So far, about 4 out of every 5 people enrolling have qualified for tax credits to reduce the cost of their premiums.

Here’s what you need to know:

– The sign-up website stumbled on deadline day. Visitors to HealthCare.gov on Monday morning saw messages that the site was down for maintenance. At times the visitors were also directed to a virtual waiting room — a feature designed to ease the strain on the site during periods of heavy use. Officials attributed the problem to a software bug.

– The deadline is at midnight EDT for the states where the federal government is running the sign-up website; states running their own exchanges set their own deadlines.

– 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 call 1-800-318-2596 to sign up by phone or get help from an enrollment specialist.

–Check online for sign-up centers that may be open locally, offering in-person assistance.

–If you started an application by Monday but didn’t finish, perhaps because of errors, missing information or website glitches, you can take advantage of a grace period. 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.

–Be prepared for the possibility of long wait times.

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