In order to ensure coverage by January 1st, 2014, the Obama administration set an initial December 15th, 2013 deadline for Americans to apply for health insurance. That date was extended by one extra week, to December 23rd before being extended yet again to December 24th to give applicants an extra safety margin to make up for difficulties they may have encountered in applying via the website. These technical difficulties date back to the October 1st launch date of the website.

The Administration also extended the deadline for users who had started an application online but were unable to complete it due to technical difficulties. On December 24th, the website encouraged individuals who encountered delays and missed the deadline to contact a call center. Administration spokeswoman Julie Bataille offered that the administration would provide individual help to Americans who were unsure whether they were able to obtain coverage in time as a result of technical difficulties. A message on noted that, “If you weren’t able to enroll in an insurance plan by December 23 because of problems you had using, you still may be able to get coverage that starts January 1.”

The extended December 24th deadline impacts Americans in the 36 states that use the federal Marketplace to apply for health coverage. Washington D.C and 14 states each have their own state health care marketplaces and deadlines for those states vary. Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts – three states with their own state-run marketplaces – have noted that residents can enroll as late as December 31st and receive next-day coverage. Maryland, California, Colorado and Oregon pushed their cutoff dates to December 27, while Nevada and Washington stuck to the December 23rd deadline (but Washington noted that people who had started their application prior to December 23 would have until January 1 to complete it).

Americans should be mindful that the enrollment date and the date by which payment is due to a new health insurance provider are two different dates. In order to ensure coverage, payment must be received by a specific date. These dates vary according to your state of residence and your health insurance provider. Many major health insurance providers said that they would give enrollees until January 10th to make their first payment and receive coverage on January 1st.  Americans should contact their insurance provider to be certain of the date their first payment is due to ensure coverage.

To date, approximately two million Americans have applied for coverage through state and federal marketplaces. This number still falls short of the projected three million Americans expected to apply for coverage. Open enrollment has three months left, and the projections are seven million through the end of March, which some people think will be exceeded. Individual state statistics show that many individuals are waiting until the last minute to enroll. States such as Colorado, Connecticut, and Washington all saw record numbers of applicants on December 23rd.