HealthCare.gov holds up amid record traffic on deadline day

Traffic on the federal government’s ObamaCare website reached a record high on Monday, with more than 1 million people logging on to HealthCare.gov on the final day to buy coverage effective Jan. 1.

At least 2.5 million people have bought health insurance plans on the ObamaCare exchanges as of Friday — a robust enrollment tally that does not include sign-ups from this week or an “extremely busy” weekend, according to Andy Slavitt, deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS).

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About 1 million of those plans were picked in just one week, according to the data, which includes 37 states using the federal marketplace.

The figures offer an important snapshot ahead of Monday’s, which was the last day to buy coverage for the beginning of the year.

Due to the surge in traffic, some users were diverted to the website’s “waiting rooms” for the first time, though Slavitt said the website “did not run into capacity constraints.”

“We are able to handle even more volume in the months ahead,” Slavitt said.

Longer wait times became an issue for some users. Hotline callers waited an average of 13 minutes over the last week, almost double the waiting time over the last month.

About 500,000 of the 1.6 million people who called in between Saturday and Monday couldn't immediately get through and will receive follow-ups from CMS, Slavitt said.

He compared the surge in demand to last-minute retail shopping.

“If people want to do their Christmas shopping on the last day, I think there’s an expectation that they’re going to have to wait a little longer,”

“Our call centers and our technology have done their job, so far,” Slavitt said.

The new figures also reflect far stronger website capacity. Nearly 11 million have logged onto the site since open enrollment began Nov. 15, far more than last year when HealthCare.gov was dyfunctional for most users.

The administration has now begun the process of “auto-renewal,” which automatically signs people up for the same healthcare plans unless they log on and make a change themselves.

Slavitt urged customers to continue shopping for coverage until the final deadline in February.

"We very much feel that the next 60 days are critical," Slavitt said.