A strong wave of people aiming to beat Sunday's deadline for Obamacare sign-ups in much of the United States were phoning insurance brokers, logging onto HealthCare.gov and other government health exchanges sites, and attending enrollment events.
While that surge echoed last year's sharp uptick in health insurance plan selections at the end of Obamacare's first season, there is also markedly less drama surrounding the close of open enrollment this time around, with business proceeding in a matter-of-fact fashion.
Just after 2 p.m. Friday, the U.S. Health and Human Service Depatrment's media Twitter feed announced, "More people are visiting HealthCare.gov right now than have come to the site since December 15."
Despite that traffic, the federally run insurance marketplace, which spectacularly melted down from technological flaws after its Oct. 1, 2013, has minimized the problems that marked its chaotic release. Yet there were still a few hiccups: On Saturday, an HHS spokesperson acknowledged that "intermittent issues" has prevented some consumers from completing their applications.
HealthCare.gov, which now serves 37 states, had nearly 7.75 million customers who had selected or been automatically re-enrolled for 2015 plans as of Feb. 6. Open enrollment began Nov. 15.
Friday's traffic level suggests HealthCare.gov alone will easily match the roughly 8 million Obamacare sign-ups see in the entire nation at the close of the first open enrollment in mid-April 2014.
The other Obamacare exchanges being run by 13 states and the District of Columbia already had signed up at least another 2.6 million or so people as of Wednesday.
While deadlines in most U.S. states is Sunday, people in the majority of the country will be allowed to finish the application and plan selection process for several days or more as long as they have begun applying by Sunday.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Friday that officials in the next two weeks will decide whether to grant a special enrollment period for 2015 plans to people who find out for the first time that they face a tax penalty for not having insurance last year.
Such a move would come in recognition of the fact that some people will realize they owe that fine only when they file their 2014 tax returns, after Sunday's deadline for obtaining coverage for 2015 has already passed.
Without a waiver to obtain insurance after that deadline, people who were uninsured last year and for 2015 would pay a fine equal to as much as 1 percent of their taxable income in 2014, and then pay a penalty equal to as much as 2 percent of their income when they file their taxes next year.