Healthcare.Gov Bug Plagues Obamacare Just Before Deadline

Enrollee Sakoun Khanthanoua reads a Maryland Health Connection pamphlet while waiting to speak to a health navigator on Dec. 7, 2013.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The U.S. government website for the Affordable Care Act was hit by a computer glitch for several hours only one day before the latest deadline for consumers to sign up for health insurance.

Some applications for Obamacare insurance plans offered on healthcare.gov couldn’t be submitted on Saturday because of “intermittent issues” with verifying a customer’s income through external sources, Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in an e-mailed statement. She confirmed Saturday evening that service had been restored. The deadline is Sunday to sign up for coverage starting March 1.

“The IRS and HealthCare.gov teams worked together to resolve the issue,” Hill said in a statement. She said consumers who were unable to complete an application can return to the website to do so, and if they miss the deadline they will be offered a special enrollment period.

It’s not the first time that healthcare.gov has faced technological issues. Last year, the government signed up only about 2.2 million people in the site’s first three months as the staff struggled to fix software bugs. The government said last month that it had signed up about 9.5 million people for Obamacare coverage for this year.

U.S. taxpayers who went without health insurance in part or all of 2014 will have to pay a penalty of as much as 1 percent of income, the Treasury Department said last month. As many as 6 million people will have to pay the fee for last year, a provision of Obamacare that’s designed to encourage people to sign up for insurance using the expanded options and financial assistance available under the law.

The administration is considering an extra Obamacare enrollment period for tax filers who learn they owe a fine for not carrying insurance last year, giving them a chance to avoid even heavier penalties in 2015.

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