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Another extension for those plagued by tech troubles

Citing record interest in signing up for insurance through the federal exchanges, the administration said Tuesday they would try to assist consumers who tried to purchase coverage by Dec. 24 but were unable to because of technical problems with the site.

“Sometimes despite your best efforts, you might have run into delays caused by heavy traffic to, maintenance periods, or other issues with our systems that prevented you from finishing the process on time. If this happened to you, don’t worry – we still may be able to help you get covered as soon as January 1,” said a Tuesday blog post on Consumers were urged to call the call centers at 1-800-318-2596 and explain to a customer service representative why they were unable to finish enrolling for insurance by the deadline to see if they can get additional help.

The assistance will only apply to consumers who began the sign-up process before the Dec. 24 deadline. Those who began the process of selecting a health plan after Tuesday will be covered as of February 1. 

The call centers are closed Wednesday but will be open again on Thursday. Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said there is a “robust casework process” to address individual inquiries. Consumers can expect to hear directly from their insurers about what date their coverage is effective.

Bataille said in a statement that had record traffic on Monday, with more than 2 million site visits and 250,000 calls to the call center and consumers. After a disastrous rollout in the beginning of October, the administration completed intensive work on the site so that it could handle 50,000 concurrent users, or more than 800,000 per day. When traffic exceeds those figures, a queuing system is put into place that invites users to leave their email address to be notified when they should return to the site. The system was deployed Monday and more than 129,000 individuals provided emails, the administration said.

Several states, including California, Washington and Connecticut, reported surges in both their site visits and enrollment figures on Monday.

The administration has taken several steps to boost enrollment before the end of the year including a series of delays to the deadline. On Monday, the official deadline to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1, the administration said they would give people until the end of the day Tuesday to sign up for coverage. Prior to that, they had moved the deadline from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23.

Last Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to a group of senators saying she will issue a “hardship exemption” from tax penalties for people whose plans were cancelled but were not able to purchase new insurance by the deadline.

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