Obamacare website unavailable ahead of deadline to enroll for coverage

WASHINGTON, March 31 Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:19am EDT

WASHINGTON, March 31 (Reuters) - The website for people to enroll in U.s. private health insurance was unavailable early Monday morning, just hours before the deadline for the first wave of enrollment under the healthcare law.

Representatives for the Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement, confirmed the access problems to www.HealthCare.gov and said the website's usual maintenance time had been extended, but that the site was "coming back up."

People have until midnight on Monday to obtain health insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law known as Obamacare or else face fines. But the administration has softened the deadline to accommodate those who attempt to apply for coverage by Monday night.

In the statement, representatives for the department said people who visit the insurance exchange website can leave their contact information and enroll online later, or call a hotline to complete their applications. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and Chizu Nomiyama)

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