Website Issues on Obamacare Enrollment Deadline Day

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Updated: Wed, 02 Apr 2014 04:50:32 EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It was a brief but fleeting reminder of the messy rollout of the Obamacare website. In the early morning hours of the final day of open enrollment, the government's health care website experienced technical problems as troubleshooters worked on a "software bug," a senior administration official said.

"System isn't available at the moment. We're currently performing maintenance," the message on HealthCare.gov said.

A senior administration official said the issue was unrelated to the high demand the White House expected on this deadline day.

HealthCare.gov "continues to handle unprecedented consumer demand well. Tech team is fixing a software bug as part of the regular nightly maintenance window that takes place on the site during off peak hours," a senior administration official said.

By 8 a.m. in Washington, the site appeared to be back up and running but experiencing delays due to the expected crush of last minute health care consumers.

"We need you to wait here, so we can make sure there's room for you to have a good experience on our site," the website said.

"They bring the site back up gradually so some people get through at first and some people do not. We are in the process now of gradually bringing the site back up," a senior administration official said Monday morning.

Minutes later, the site assisting enrollment on the federal exchange appeared to be functioning properly.

Over at the White House website, it was another story. The open enrollment countdown clock on the White House site mistakenly said consumers had "16 days, 29 hours" to sign up. That glitch appeared to be an inadvertent shifting of the hours and minutes into the wrong columns.

White House feeling optimistic on numbers

Despite the early deadline day hiccups, White House officials are pleased with the latest enrollment numbers. More than 6 million people have signed up for private insurance coverage as of late last week and HealthCare.gov received more than two million visitors over the weekend, according to the White House.

Without revealing new enrollment numbers, mainly because they are waiting on state numbers to come in, senior White House officials are sounding optimistic about the final day of enrollment in Obamacare.

"We feel really good," a senior White House official said.

With well over 1 million people flooding HealthCare.gov and hundreds of thousands more phoning into call centers, the official said the late surge is "crushing" expectations.

The official also said the White House is also feeling positive about the percentage of young adults enrolling -- a key demographic to keeping costs healthcare costs down.

The final push means the Affordable Care Act could reach that coveted 7 million enrollment target originally projected by the CBO and embraced by administration officials.

Acknowledging that not all Americans going on line and calling in are signing up, the official noted one indicator -- people phoning call centers are staying on the line longer.

Consumers who attempt to sign up on the final day of enrollment but experience technical problems will be given a few additional days to complete the process, administration official said.

The Vice President's pitch

Vice President Joe Biden emphasized that extension during a taped appearance on Rachael Ray's syndicated talk show that aired nationwide on Monday.

"Anybody who's in line now, anybody's who's on the web, in person being interviewed and or on the telephone, they are able to -- even if the deadline closes -- to stay in line," Biden said. "They can get into the system. It's a little bit like people when the polls close at eight, and there's a hundred people waiting, they get to vote."

After the law's rocky roll out gave opponents so much to criticize, the Vice President also emphasized his belief that "people are going to be really, really surprised how well this has turned out."

But in a possible attempt to stem off more bad publicity if customers run into roadblocks on the last day of open enrollment, both Ray and Biden urged viewers to "get in the queue."

"Go to healthcare.gov, you can sign up today, get on that line and get your extension," Ray said.

CNN White House Producer Adam Aigner-Treworgy contributed to this story

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