Have you signed up for health insurance yet? If not, you better hustle your bustle over to Healthcare.gov, since today is the last day to sign up—except, uh-oh…looks like the site is having some problems. Why in God’s name did you wait so long?
Reports are coming in that many last-minute enrollees are having trouble accessing the Healthcare.gov website and are being met with a message saying the site is under maintenance. The problem appears to have started early Monday morning. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has said that the site is expected to be fixed later today.
Last week, President Obama revealed that the administration met its final goal of six million enrollees in federal and state health exchanges—which means some two million people enrolled in the last two weeks. The number of newly insured is expected to climb to seven million by the end of the day.
The Congressional Budget Office previously estimated that at least six million people would need to enroll in the state and federal health exchanges—with a heavy dose of healthy, young people in the mix—in order to make the system work.
Could the POTUS’s Funny or Die skit be responsible for the wave of new signups? The six-minute “Between Two Ferns” mock interview (during which Zach Galifianakis at one point asks “Are you done with your plug?”) has amassed 20 million views, setting a new record for the show. And shortly after the interview’s publication, Tara McGuinness of the White House Communications team tweeted that the skit was the number one driver to Healthcare.gov.
The skit was an attempt to reach out to young people, who are critical to the smooth operation of the Affordable Care Act. Because young people tend to be healthier and require fewer health services, their payment into the system is expected to balance out older enrollees who require more care.
The deadline for enrollment is March 31 at 11:59 pm EST, but the Obama administration said last week that it will accept enrollment from anyone who began the process prior to the deadline, which means we’ll likely see bigger numbers in the coming weeks. Those who fail to sign up may face a penalty of $95 or 1% of their income—whichever is greater (so if you make $50,000 a year, you could be looking at a fine of $500).