JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Obama administration is giving Americans more time to apply for health insurance, but only if they've already started the process for coverage on healthcare.gov.
Under the new rules, consumers can apply for an extension if they attest they applied for health care before the original deadline of March 31.
According to a recent study, 43 percent of Americans had no idea the original deadline was just a few days away.
Perry Walker just found out at Channel 4's Take it to Heart event Wednesday that he's at high risk for a heart attack or stroke. Walker who doesn't have health insurance and said he's turning to healthcare.gov.
"This is the first time ever I started seeing a doctor," he said. "I never wanted to see a doctor until now, and I've never cared about my health more than now."
Walker said he just realized the original deadline for applying for health insurance is approaching, but the Obama administration announced it is offering consumers an extension if they go to the website and attest that they've started the process.
"They are expecting a last-minute surge," health care expert Carolyn McClanahan said. "The deadline was supposed to be March 31 and they are frankly afraid behind the scenes that the computer systems won't be able to handle it again."
McClanahan said the extension to mid-April will create a broad new category of people eligible for the special enrollment period, but she warns that this may be the last extension before facing a fine of 1 percent of your salary or $95, whichever is more.
"It's going to take a change in the culture of this country to understand that everyone needs to take responsibility and get insurance," McClanahan said.
"I think a lot of people are realizing the deadline is here," said Chad Krialy, who finalized his health care purchase Wednesday.
Krialy said he thinks the problems with healthcare.gov have been fixed.
"It seems to go quick," he said. "The insurance company called me in three days, but I think more time would help with the process."
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