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Obamacare Enrollment Extended To Accommodate Last-Minute Demand

The deadline to buy health insurance under Obamacare has been extended for two days after high demand clogged the federal government's exchange.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday night, just hours before the original deadline of midnight Dec. 15, that consumers would have 48 hours more to buy a health plan.

Wait times to log in to or to get help on the telephone were so long earlier this week that officials said anyone who left a message or email address would be contacted after Tuesday's deadline and would still be able to get insurance that goes into effect on Jan. 1.

By Tuesday, more than a million people had left telephone messages, so Department of Health and Human Services decided to give people more time.

Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees, said on Twitter that 185,000 people were simultaneously shopping for insurance late Monday.

People may be motivated by higher penalties that kick in next year for not having insurance.

In 2016, an individual who doesn't buy insurance will owe at least $695 when filing taxes for that year. The fines increase based on income, and can go up to $2,085 for an individual.

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Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak is a health policy correspondent on NPR's Science Desk.