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SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Tares, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif.  Monday marks this year's open enrollment deadline, but consumers will get extra time to finish their applications.  (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
People line up to enroll for health insurance at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on Monday, March 31, 2014.  The deadline is just hours away to sign up for insurance in the first enrollment period under President Barack Obama's signature health care law.  (AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Jerry Lara)  RUMBO DE SAN ANTONIO OUT; NO SALES Charles Ellis, 53, of Salt Lake City, right, works with navigator Luis Rios while seeking help to buy health insurance at the Utah Health Policy Project Monday, March 31, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Ellis said he doesn’t feel he needs insurance but was signing up to avoid a penalty. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Tares, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif.  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. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) Lisa Valera and her husband Manuel sign up for Obamacare at the Community Service Society, Monday, March 31, 2014 in New York. The troubled U.S. government web site for signing up for health insurance was unavailable for several hours Monday morning as the midnight deadline for buying coverage loomed. Heading into the deadline, more than 6 million Americans had signed up for health insurance, some of the policies heavily subsidized for lower income people. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) A screen shows the countdown for the deadline to sign up for health insurance during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif.  Monday marks this year's open enrollment deadline, but consumers will get extra time to finish their applications.  (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) The HealthCare.gov website is shown on a laptop in Washington, Monday, March 31, 2014. Today is the deadline to sign up for private heath insurance in the online markets created by President Obama's heath care law or face a federal fines. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) The HealthCare.gov website is shown on a laptop in Washington, Monday, March 31, 2014. Today is the deadline to sign up for private heath insurance in the online markets created by President Obama's heath care law or face a federal fines. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

Glitches slow health sign-ups in deadline dash


WASHINGTON (AP) — In a flood of last-minute sign-ups, hundreds of thousands of Americans rushed to apply for health insurance Monday, but deadline day for President Barack Obama’s overhaul brought long, frustrating waits and a new spate of website ills.

At times, more than 125,000 people were simultaneously using HealthCare.gov, straining it beyond its capacity. For long stretches Monday, applicants were shuttled to a virtual waiting room where they could leave an email address and be contacted later.

Officials said the site had not crashed but was experiencing very heavy volume. The website, which was receiving 1.5 million visitors a day last week, had recorded about 1.6 million through 2 p.m. EDT.

Supporters of the health care law fanned out across the country in a final dash to sign up uninsured Americans. People not signed up for health insurance by the deadline, either through their jobs or on their own, were subject to being fined by the IRS, and that threat was helping drive the final dash.

The administration announced last week that people still in line by midnight would get extra time to enroll.

The website stumbled early in the day — out of service for nearly four hours as technicians patched a software bug.

Another hiccup in early afternoon temporarily kept new applicants from signing up, and then things slowed further.

Overwhelmed by computer problems when launched last fall, the system has been working much better in recent months, but independent testers say it still runs slowly.

The White House and other supporters of the law were hoping for an enrollment surge that would push sign-ups in the new health insurance markets to around 6.5 million people. That’s halfway between a revised goal of 6 million and the original target of 7 million. The first goal was scaled back after the federal website’s disastrous launch last fall, which kept it offline during most of October.

The administration hasn’t said how many of the 6 million people nationally who had signed up before the weekend ultimately closed the deal by paying their first month’s premiums. Also unknown is how many were previously uninsured — the real test of Obama’s health care overhaul. In addition, the law expands coverage for low-income people through Medicaid, but only about half the states have agreed to implement that option.



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