By Maeve Reston
1:13 PM EST, December 23, 2013
HONOLULU -- Federal officials said Monday they would extend by 24 hours -- to midnight Tuesday -- the deadline to sign up to receive healthcare coverage beginning Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.
The announcement came as President Obama, in an effort to show confidence in his signature program, symbolically signed up for a healthcare plan over the weekend.
The deadline change will allow Americans to get coverage at the beginning of the year if they enroll before 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It was extended by federal officials in anticipation of increased demand for enrollment on the federal website, HealthCare.gov.
Federal officials said they extended the deadline to ensure that those signing up for plans at the last minute would be able to do so, and so that the website, which was plagued by problems at its inception, would be better able to heavy online traffic on the deadline day.
“The deadline for signing up for coverage to start January 1 is today," Julie Bataille, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' office of communications, said in a statement. "We recognize that many have chosen to make their final decisions on today’s deadline and we are committed to making sure they can do so.”
“Anticipating high demand, which we indeed saw starting early Monday morning, and the fact that consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones, we have taken steps to make sure that those who select a plan through tomorrow will get coverage for January 1," she said.
It remained unclear whether the change would apply to those states that offer their own healthcare insurance exchanges.
Officials of California’s exchange said they just learned of the federal government’s postponed deadline and hadn’t decided whether to make a similar move. For now, Monday remains the signup deadline at the Covered California exchange.
“We are working on developing a position,” said Covered California spokesman Dana Howard.
The president signed up for coverage through the District of Columbia marketplace, though he receives healthcare from the military, as every president has.
White House officials said in a statement that Obama signed up for insurance coverage as a symbolic act and was pleased to “participate in a plan as a show of support for these marketplaces which are providing quality, affordable health care options to more than a million people.”
The resident chose a so-called bronze plan, which is the least expensive of those available on the exchange.
Staff writer Chad Terhune in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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