- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - The Massachusetts Health Connector is extending until Feb. 23 the deadline to complete an application and pick a health plan.

The deadline had been Sunday, but officials pushed it off a week because heavy snowstorms have made it hard for some people to sign up for insurance.

Officials say the extreme weather also led to a number of days this month when the call center was short-staffed, leading to long wait times. The storms also led to the closure of nonemergency state government offices four times.

The extension gives applicants an additional week to complete paperwork, find out if they qualify for MassHealth or Health Connector coverage, select a plan and make a payment.

The Feb. 23 deadline for making a payment stays in place.

Louis Gutierrez, the agency’s new executive director, said it wanted to be sure it extended every opportunity for people sign up for coverage.

A big factor for the decision to push back the deadline is another snowstorm bearing down on the state over the weekend.

Connector officials said they wanted to give people extra time, given the burden many have had as they’ve had to dig out from the successive storms.

The Connector’s call center won’t be taking calls this Sunday due to the storm, but will make return calls to consumers who have requested them. It has expanded hours through Feb. 23, including weekend hours on Saturday, Feb. 21, and Sunday, Feb. 22, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and on Monday, Feb. 23, from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

Officials are also encouraging those who want to check on a payment made in recent days to contact them after the call center resumes full staffing on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

As of Wednesday, about 343,000 had enrolled in coverage, including 240,000 automatically enrolled in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program.

The Connector can be reached at 877-623-6765.

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