Surge in sign-ups swamps Obamacare website on final day

It was a race against the clock Monday for many people trying to sign-up for health insurance by today’s open enrollment deadline. The last-minute surge in visitors, though, meant long waits on both healthcare.gov and government phone lines.

Over the past week, counselors at Community Healthcare in Davenport have helped nearly 275 people. That number spiked from about 180 the week before.

“Really the last week, we’ve seen a big push in those last-second people coming in and getting questions answered and trying to set up appointments,” said Mateo Tiry-Ortiz, outreach and enrollment coordinator.

Among those trying to enroll Monday was Geri Crampton, who insists she’s not usually a last-minute person.

“No, I’m not. I’ve been trying to do this since December,” said Crampton.

After being denied Medicaid, though, she’s been forced to navigate the health insurance marketplace on a tight deadline.

“It will just take a load off my mind. It will feel so great, because if you hurt yourself, [having insurance] is the difference between if you get an x-ray or not, and the difference in affording the medicine,” said Crampton.

A surge in last-minute sign-ups, though, bogged down the healthcare.gov website Monday afternoon. Crampton waited nearly an hour and a half, and she was still unable to even log into the system.

In the early morning hours of the final day of open enrollment, the government’s health care website also experienced technical problems as troubleshooters worked on a “software bug,” a senior administration official said.

The Obama administration has promised a partial extension for those, like Crampton, who start the enrollment process but experience technical problems.

“They haven’t given us any information on what that grace period will be, but we’re kind of taking it on a case-by-case basis,” said Tiry-Ortiz.

Tiry-Ortiz said nearly 90 percent of the people seeking help at Community Healthcare have never had insurance before. Those who don’t enroll by 11:59 p.m. EST will be fined $95 per adult or 1 percent of their annual household income, whichever is greater.

The next enrollment period won’t begin until November 15th.

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