TIME Health Care

Obamacare Website Suffers Issues on Last Day of Enrollment

Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., on March 27, 2014.
Arminda Murillo reads an Obamacare leaflet at a health-insurance-enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., on March 27, 2014 Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

As the 11:59 p.m. enrollment deadline approaches, the Obama Administration’s website to buy private insurance under the Affordable Care Act is buckling under the strain of thousands rushing to sign up for coverage

Updated: March 31, 6:15 p.m.

The Obama Administration’s website for the Affordable Care Act, HealthCare.gov, suffered repeated delays, outages and glitches Monday as consumers rushed to enroll on the last day of sign-ups for private health insurance under the law.

Users attempting to sign up in certain states early Monday were met with a maintenance message and urged to try again later, or redirected to a “virtual waiting room” designed to ease strain on the website. A “software bug” was repaired after a few hours of issues, but users were greeted with long wait times throughout the day.

Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Joanne Peters blamed record volume for the long wait times, with 1.6 million visits as of 2 p.m. and around 125,000 users online at peak times. “The waiting room is up to meet demand,” she said. “Consumers may wait, or may leave their email and they will be invited back.”

The government website suffered a separate glitch on Monday afternoon, when it would briefly not accept new applications, though users who already had accounts were able to access them. White House press secretary Jay Carney said at around 2 p.m. Monday that the account-creation issue had also been fixed.

The HealthCare.gov’s Twitter account said call volume also hit records nearly three times higher than the next biggest day, as consumers attempted to enroll before the deadline. Call centers had reportedly fielded over 840,000 calls as of 4 p.m., setting a new call-center record, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Carney added that Obama was “gratified” by the interest in the law, and chided critics for “grasping at straws” to find things wrong with it.

Uninsured Americans have until 11.59 p.m. on Monday to sign up for insurance coverage on the health care law’s exchanges, or face a federal fine.

— With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

[AP]

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