It's Christmas Eve but in Washington, Santa's big visit is not what has everyone watching the clock. It's the new deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The deadline was supposed to be last night; but the president extended it until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Healthcare.gov is advertising the one day extension, granted in response to the record number of visitors to the website. There were more than 2 million visitors yesterday and more than 250,000 calls to the hotline.
"We wanted to make sure that people who are trying to sign up today were actually able to do it and get covered," said White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri.
The extra time to sign up is good for consumers who need health coverage by Jan. 1, but if you're one of those who need help signing up, you may be out of luck. Every Houston-area call center and clinic that is supposed to be helping consumers is closed because it's Christmas Eve.
"It's very simple," said Norman Mitchell, the CEO of Bee Busy Wellness Center.
Mitchell's federally funded clinic has encouraged and helped local consumers sign up. His office is closed today; but he said Healthcare.gov is better now and most people can sign up without assistance.
"A lot of people are afraid to do it because it's the internet," said Mitchell. "But no, it's very simple and it's a very secure site."
The deadline for January coverage was originally Dec. 15.
Republicans say this latest change is more evidence the plan won’t work.
"It's another demonstration that this plan was not ready for prime time. There's going to be problem after problem," said Rep. Peter King of New York.
If you do sign up on Tuesday, the next deadline is Dec. 31 when premiums are due. But most insurers are giving consumers until Jan. 10 to pay.
You can still sign up for health coverage through March 31. Tuesday’s deadline is only for people who need their coverage to begin Jan. 1.
To sign up or check out available healthcare plans, head to www.healthcare.gov or call the national toll-free hotline at 1-800-318-2596.