Thousands of North Texans are racing to beat the clock Monday night. 11 p.m. CST is the deadline to sign up for health care through the Affordable Care Act.
Those who don't sign up could be fined, and things became complicated Monday when the healthcare.gov website shut down for a while due to overwhelming demand.
At one point, more than 100,000 people were using the system at once.
Those who'd already started an application had some luck finishing registration on the site, but it was a different story for brand new applicants. Many of them work asked to make an appointment to return another day, leaving their information to show they'd made an effort to sign up and avoid paying a penalty.
"A lot of people are wanting to get coverage," said Andrew Greenberg with Get Covered America. "A lot of people wait ‘til the last minute to do this kind of thing. It's kind of like Christmas shopping, and people wait ‘til the last minute."
Heavy volume slowed down efforts to sign up customers at Parkland Hospital, where one of the largest signup efforts was underway.
Lloyd Brown, 63, was one of those at Parkland hoping to buy a health plan just hours before the deadline.
Brown joined dozens of others in line Monday morning before finally getting to the big room where certified application counselors in cubicles tried to connect him to healthcare.gov.
"It gets kind of frustrating, but you know you need something so you keep pushing," said Brown.
Brown joined about 2,000 people on a three-hour journey in Parkland, trying to beat the midnight deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act or face possible penalties.
Rita Thomas doesn't want that.
"I've tried to get on," she said. "Actually this morning, I was trying to call, but the lines were so full and I just couldn't get through."
Parkland officials say only about one in five applicants at Parkland have been the so-called "young and healthy;" those between 18 and 34 that the administration has targeted, hoping they will sign up to support the aging population.
"They're no longer on parents' insurance, so they had absolutely nothing at all," said Marian Morrow with the hospital. "So parents are bringing in their young adults, kids, to get on the insurance."
Five hours after the hospital opened its doors, Brown was able to register, but he still hadn't chosen a plan.
He'll have to do that another time.
The Obama administration has allowed people to sign up after Monday's deadline if, like Brown, they started their application but got caught up in technical difficulties or other reasons.
If you don't fall into that category, then you could be forced to pay the penalty.
The administration is very unclear about how long any extension will last, so consumers really should proceed as if the extension doesn't even exist. It may last a few days or a couple of weeks.
The feds say they won't know how much time they'll need to get everyone processed before they know just how much of a surge they'll see.
KDFW FOX 4
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