SHARECOMMENTMORE

Jayne O'Donnell and Kelly Kennedy
USA Today

Federal regulators extended the deadline for consumers to enroll in health insurance until midnight Tuesday, Christmas Eve.

"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," said Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille.

"Anticipating high demand 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 Jan. 1."

HHS programmed its systems to support Jan. 1 coverage for those who attempt to complete their enrollment through the end of the day Tuesday in anticipation of heavy online traffic or other technical issues. Insurers said they did not receive official word of the change, although HHS said the move was made in consultation with the industry so consumers could be well-served, calling it a concept similar to Election Day, when those in line when the polls close still get to vote.

Healthcare.gov had record-breaking traffic this weekend, according to HHS, with more than 1 million visits to the site and 200,000 calls to the call center. Some users experienced long wait times accessing the call center, and others have reported difficulties resetting their accounts after becoming stuck in the system when they tried to sign up in October.

Today is also a busy day at the site, but the queuing system seemed to be working smoothly. Error rates remained low at .45% and wait times averaged fewer than 400 milliseconds.

Despite the delayed deadline, Batallie warned that consumers shouldn't wait until tomorrow. "If you are aiming to get coverage Jan. 1, you should try to sign up today."