Santa just gave millions of people a few extra days to enroll in Obamacare in time for New Year's.
Faced with "unprecedented demand" for Obamacare insurance plans, officials Tuesday night extended by 48 hours the deadline for sign up for coverage effective Jan. 1 to customers of both the federal exchange HealthCare.gov and California's state-run health marketplace.
The holiday-season deadline for HealthCare.gov, which serves 38 states, and Covered California, the nation's largest state-run exchange, had been originally scheduled for early Wednesday morning.
The extensions similar moves by several other states, including New York and Minnesota, to give residents more time to sign up on state-run insurance marketplaces for coverage that kicks in New Year's Day.
Insurance plans' coverage typically take two weeks to begin after individuals sign up for them, but the extensions guarantee that people who currently have health coverage for 2015 can continue being covered without interruption as 2016 begins.
The broader deadline to have health insurance for 2016 to avoid paying an Obamacare fine remains Jan. 31.
But recent days on HealthCare.gov and the call center, which officials said were the busiest ever seen on the site, convinced the Obama administrations to grant what is just the latest in a series of sign-up extensions seen in Obamacare's three seasons of enrollments to date.
"Because of the unprecedented demand and volume of consumers contacting our call center or visiting HealthCare.gov, we are extending the deadline to sign up for January 1 coverage until 11:59 p.m. PST December 17," said Kevin Counihan, CEO of the marketplace.
"Hundreds of thousands have already selected plans over the last two days and approximately 1 million consumers have left their contact information to hold their place in line," Counihan said.
He added, "Our goal is to provide access to affordable coverage, and the additional 48 hours will give customers an opportunity to come back and complete their enrollment for January 1 coverage."
Within an hour of Counihan's announcement, Covered California announced its own 48-hour grace period.
"The spike in interest we are seeing in the last few days tells us there is continued demand for quality, affordable coverage," said Peter Lee, executive director of California's exchange. "We have already enrollment more consumers this year for Jan. 1 coverage than we did last year."