- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey advocate said people signed up for the new health insurance exchange at a quick rate on Monday, the final day to sign up to avoid fines under the Affordable Care Act for not having coverage by Tuesday.

The rush to register across the country ahead of Monday night’s deadline caused intermittent problems with healthcare.gov, the website used for consumers in New Jersey and the 35 other states where the federal government is running the exchanges.

People who try to sign up by the deadline but can’t complete their applications due to circumstances beyond their control will be given a grace period to register.

Get Covered America New Jersey spokeswoman Alescia Teel said organizers in her group saw larger than usual crowds at the events it was involved in around New Jersey on Monday, and many of the people attending were not only asking questions about the insurance offerings but also signing up on the spot.

The privately funded group was taking part in 10 events in New Jersey along with community groups that are helping people enroll.

Teel said there were several young adults trying to register at one forum in Montclair, in particular. Getting that relatively healthy group into the insurance programs as seen as a key to the success of the health insurance exchanges.

The exchange is a key part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. It’s designed to get coverage for a chunk of people who do not have health insurance, including an estimated 1.3 million in New Jersey.

No hard figures on how many people were already enrolled in New Jersey were available Monday.

Federal officials hope nearly 100,000 New Jersey residents sign up for the coverage. By the end of February, about 74,000 had enrolled. Many people are eligible for subsidies for the coverage, which is being offered by three insurers.

The next open enrollment period for the exchange will not be until later this year.

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