Heavy traffic on deadline day slows down sign up for health care

"Healthcare.gov has a lot of visitors right now!" - If you tried to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act on Monday chances are you saw this message. 
 
"It keeps kicking them out and you can't get in," John Larkin said.
 
Larkin's frustration could be felt down the line at Al Lopez Park where a last minute sign-up event was held that drew hundreds of people. 
 
At the stroke of midnight, open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act ends for 2014 - along with the chance to avoid paying a penalty. 
 
Across the Tampa Bay area, people scrambled to sign up. 
 
"There are a lot of people on the website right now and it isn't just with us, it's a nationwide thing," said navigator Laura Ottaviano who was set up at the Springhill Recreation Center. "We're just encouraging consumers to basically keep trying."
 
Health Care navigators and community volunteers fielded questions and concerns as HealthCare.gov, the federal government's enrollment site, continued to send people into a virtual waiting room. 
 
"We're still waiting and tomorrow's April Fools Day," Larkin joked.
 
But some said the wait was worth it. When you're like Flor Restopo what's one day when you've been waiting years. 
 
"I've lived in the United States for 13 years without insurance," Restopo said. "At my age, I really need it."
 
With her grandkids in tow, she was one step closer to changing that.
 
Even when the website was flooded with visitors, the navigators helped people open accounts which started the ball rolling. If they encountered a technical glitch which prevented them from completing it, they were granted a grace period to complete the process and avoid paying a penalty. 
 
According to the website, penalties will be calculated one of two ways. In 2014, those without health insurance will pay whichever of these amounts are higher: $95 per person for the year or 1 percent of your yearly household income. 
 
The penalty increases every year. In 2015, it's 2 percent of your yearly income or $325 per person.
 
Though March 31 was the last day officially to sign up, millions of people are potentially eligible for extensions.

Those include people who had begun enrolling by the deadline but didn't finish, perhaps because of errors, missing information or website glitches.
 
The government says it will accept paper applications until April 7 and take as much time as necessary to handle unfinished cases on HealthCare.gov. Rules may vary in states running their own insurance marketplaces.

The administration is also offering special extensions to make up for all sorts of problems that might have kept people from getting enrolled on time: Natural disasters. Domestic abuse. Website malfunctions. Errors by insurance companies. Mistakes by application counselors.

To seek a special enrollment period, contact the federal call center, at 1-855-889-4325, or the state marketplace and explain what happened. It's on the honor system. If the extension is approved, that brings another 60 days to enroll.
 
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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