HealthDay News — Americans who’ve started applying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but can’t complete the process by the March 31 enrollment deadline will be given an extension.

The Obama administration announced the extension, partly out of concern that the federal registration website,, could become overwhelmed as last-minute registrants scrambled to meet the original March 31 deadline or face a penalty in the form of a tax, the Washington Post reported.

To qualify for the extension, people simply check a blue box on the website indicating that they’d tried to sign up for insurance before the deadline. This method will be based on the honor system, the Post reported. Administration officials didn’t specify how long the extended enrollment period would last.

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“We are … making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment — either online or over the phone,” said Julie Bataille, head of the office of communications for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Obama administration recently announced that five million people have signed up for coverage through the federal- and state-run websites — sometimes called marketplaces or exchanges — since Oct. 1, short of projected enrollment.

The White House is still hoping to sign up about six million people for 2014. Once the enrollment deadline passes, most Americans won’t have another chance to sign up for coverage until the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15. Coverage purchased during that time won’t take effect until 2015.