ObamaCare sign-up deadline extended amid record demand

Greg Nash

Officials are pushing back an ObamaCare sign-up deadline by two days because of what they say is “unprecedented” demand for coverage.

The deadline for coverage beginning Jan. 1 is moving from Tuesday night to 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday night. 

“Because of the unprecedented demand and volume of consumers contacting our call center or visiting HealthCare.gov, we are extending the deadline to sign-up for January 1 coverage until 11:59pm PST December 17,” Marketplace CEO Kevin Counihan said in a statement. 

Because demand was so high, some people had to leave their contact information and sign up later. Counihan said one million people have left their contact information to hold their place in line, in addition to “hundreds of thousands” who have signed up in the last two days. 

“Our goal is to provide access to affordable coverage, and the additional 48 hours will give consumers an opportunity to come back and complete their enrollment for January 1 coverage,” Counihan said. 

The decision to give consumers extra time comes as officials say they have seen record numbers of people looking to sign up. 

Earlier Tuesday, the administration said an all-time high of 185,000 people were simultaneously shopping for coverage on Monday night, and that demand was even higher on Tuesday. 

The average wait time on the website was two minutes on Monday, officials said.

The demand is a positive sign for enrollment, coming after the administration earlier set a sign-up goal of 10 million people, an increase of just 900,000 over this year.

Last week, officials said over one million new customers had already signed up, and 2.8 million people had overall. 

A higher penalty next year for lacking insurance could be playing a role in driving signups. It is increasing to $695 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater. 

The final deadline to sign up for coverage next year is Jan. 31.