"You should not wait until tomorrow. If you are aiming to get coverage Jan. 1, you should try to sign up today," said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the federal agency in charge of the overhaul. She said the period of one day was added so that people from different time zones could be accommodated without problems.
By noon the site had got a record breaking 850,000 hits and the site had a response time of less than a second. The increased number of enrollments would ease the concerns of the insurance companies. The grace period made up for delays due to heavy traffic.
In Ohio, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor called the deadline extension "a clear sign HealthCare.gov continues to struggle."
"Consumers are already confused and insurers are overwhelmed with the administration's last-minute changes, yet there seems to be no end in sight," Taylor, a Republican who heads Ohio's insurance department, said.
Monday had been the deadline for Americans in the 36 states served by the federal site to sign up if they wanted coverage at the start of the New Year. The remaining states operate their own online marketplaces, and some of them have also extended their deadlines.
As the deadline drew near, more than 1 million people visited the website over the weekend, and a federal call center received more than 200,000 calls.
Others said they will let the date pass without making a decision.
"I'm in no hurry, though it'd be nice to be able to visit a doctor without stress," said Kyle Eichenberger, an uninsured 34-year-old from Oak Park, Ill., who said he hit a wall on the website when he first tried to enroll early on.
"I'm an Obamacare supporter, though I think it is full of problems," Eichenberger said. "I'd like to see the whole system streamlined to be more user-friendly. Keep the basic idea, but don't make me feel like I'm navigating a maze to get a simple checkup."
The original deadline already had been delayed by a week because of the website problems. The extra day would add to administrative problems that insurance companies faced, such as inaccuracies on applications, said industry consultant Robert Laszewski.
"Insurers would like to have two to three weeks to process applications. Now they're going to have a week, less one more day," he said. "When the day is done, it doesn't help."
The president himself signed up for coverage through the government site over the weekend a purely symbolic move since he continues to get health care through the military, as commander in chief. He chose a less-expensive "bronze" plan.
On Friday more than 1 million Americans had enrolled for coverage since Oct. 1. The government estimates that 3.3 million will sign up by December.
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)
Carla K. Johnson, December 2013