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Some HealthCare.gov shoppers may get enrollment extension

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A man looks over ObamaCare signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York on October 2, 2013. ((Reuters))

The Obama administration is planning a workaround to the health care law that would extend the March 31 enrollment deadline for health care coverage for some users if technical glitches prevent them from signing up on HealthCare.gov, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Under the plan, people who can demonstrate that they were unable to sign up for coverage before the deadline because of website problems would be able to sign up after March 31, officials familiar with the matter told the newspaper.

Details of the workaround are still being hammered out, including how long the special sign-up period would last and what documentation people might need to offer as proof they were blocked by glitches, the officials told The Journal.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius alluded to a possible workaround plan, telling a congressional panel that if potential enrollees were blocked from signing up that "they will have a special enrollment."

An HHS official on Friday declined to comment directly on planning for the workaround but said the agency would monitor HealthCare.gov's operations closely and "respond appropriately," according to The Journal.

Enrollment for the current year expires on March 31, and administration officials are hoping for a late rush of applications beyond the 4.2 million they claim have already signed up. That is particularly true for younger people, whose health is often good and whose participation therefore helps bring down the cost of coverage for sicker people.

Kurt DelBene, a former Microsoft executive who took over the management of HealthCare.gov in December, told The Journal that three site failures stemming from server problems between March 6 and 14 were brief outages that were quickly resolved. 

"We are confident that…we have enough capacity in the system to enroll everyone who wants to get coverage on March 31," he told the newspaper.

President Obama on Friday played pitchman in a 30-minute interview with WebMD, reeling off the toll-free telephone number for the program and repeatedly urging his listeners to check out its website, now repaired after its woeful debut last fall.

"We look forward to seeing more and more people take advantage as some of the politics of the thing get drained away, as people start feeling more confident about the website," the president told WebMD in his latest bid to spread the gospel about the law.

The president's remarks came as the GOP-led House held the 51st vote in 38 months to repeal or undermine the law. The measure calls for a delay in imposing penalties on individuals who fail to purchase health care under the law.

The vote was 238-181, with all Republicans in favor and all but a dozen Democrats opposed. The bill faces certain death in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for more from The Wall Street Journal.