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Vice President Biden wants uninsured young people to sign up for health care for their mothers' piece of mind. / Carolyn Kaster AP

WASHINGTON -- With the deadline just hours away to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Vice President Biden kicked off the White House's last-minute push on Monday to get uninsured Americans to enroll.

Biden, who appeared in a pre-taped video call on the Rachael Ray Show, underscored that any Americans who are in process of signing up for health care as of midnight will be eligible to sign up even if they aren't able to complete enrollment by the end of the day.

"It's a little bit like people when the polls close at 8 and there are 100 people waiting, they get to vote," Biden said. "I think people are going to be really, really surprised how well this has turned out."

"Get in the queue, now," Biden urged viewers. "Get in the queue. There is still time today."

But getting in line was easier said than done for those trying to create accounts on the federal health exchange on Monday morning.

Users who created accounts on Monday were unable to log on and instead received error messages that their accounts were locked or disabled and should call the marketplace call center.

Callers were greeted with a recorded message that operators were unable to immediately answer calls due to a surge in demand for marketplace coverage as the end of open enrollment approaches. At midday, the Health and Human Services Department reported that 100,000 users were on the online exchange concurrently.

HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said that the tech team overseeing the website "has identified an issue with users creating new accounts."

"The application and enrollment tools are unavailable to new users at the moment," Peters said. "The tech team is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The Data Services Hub is still fully operational. Users already in system remain able to complete enrollment."

Peters said shortly after the 1:30 p.m. that the issue had been resolved, but some new users continued to experience difficultly logging in.

In his television appearance, Biden made a particular appeal to young people, whose enrollment numbers are seen as vital to keeping health insurance costs stable. Later on Monday afternoon, the vice president visited a "one touch enrollment center" in the nation's capital where residents, small business owners and their employees were receiving assistance with the signup process.

In addition to Biden's appearance on Rachael Ray, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to do interviews with local TV stations in Oklahoma City, Orlando, Tampa, Cleveland, Dallas, Cincinnati and Columbus; and White House senior advisers Valerie Jarrett and Phil Schiliro are slated to make the administration's final push by calling in to radio shows in targeted markets around the country.

"Let me say something to any young person listening," Biden said. "If you don't need this for your piece of mind, do it for mom. Do it for your dad."

The federal government's health care enrollment website -- HealthCare.gov -- also went down briefly early on Monday because of what was called a "software bug."

Even with Monday's problems with the online health care exchange, the White House tried to put the focus on the progress since the early days of the troubled launch of the web site.

The White House touted that they saw 2.9 million visits to the healthcare.gov website over the weekend and last week they counted more phone calls from Americans inquiring about signing up for insurance that they saw in all of February.

"There has been a remarkable story since the dark days of October and November, which has resulted in a situation where here on the last day of enrollment we're looking at a number substantially larger than six million enrolled," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. "I dare say that there are few people in this room-including some of the folks who work in the White House-who would have predicted that we would get to that number."

Carney said the White House did not yet have a date of when it would release a final tally for those who signed up for coverage through the federal and state exchanges.

The midnight deadline to sign up -- or at least be in line -- is the last chance to avoid a penalty for not purchasing insurance in 2014. People will pay the penalty with their federal income taxes next year.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Biden: Get in the Obamacare queue and sign up

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