/ Modified mar 19, 2014 5:12 p.m.

Health Insurance Enrollment Surges as Deadline Nears

As the March 31 deadline approaches for uninsured people to buy health care insurance, the federal website for purchasing a plan is seeing more traffic.

As the March 31 deadline approaches for uninsured people to buy health care insurance, the federal website for purchasing a plan is seeing more traffic, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Final numbers for Arizona enrollment will not be available for a few weeks, but more than 80,000 Arizonans have enrolled in Medicaid and more than 60,000 have enrolled in private health care plans through the site, said Herb K. Schultz, regional director of the Health and Human Services Department.

The government is seeing a surge in demand on the website, he said, as more people have visited the site in the last week than in weeks prior.

The deadline of March 31 is for uninsured people to purchase health insurance. If they do not, they face a penalty for not buying insurance of either $95 per person in a household, or 1 percent of a person's income, whichever is higher, he said.

Anyone who misses that deadline will not be able to enroll in health insurance until the end of the year for a policy starting in January 2015, Schultz said.

"It's required for those who can afford it," he said. Those eligible for Medicaid, the low-income insurance program run by the states.

The Health and Human Services Department has set up a three-digit phone number, 211, for people to find where to get local help to navigate the enrollment process or ask questions about enrollment, which is being done online at healthcare.gov.

Arizona Public Media's Georgia Davis has been shopping for health insurance on the federal exchange, and shared her experience navigating the website and the insurance options.

"It was actually incredibly easy to navigate," she said with regards to registering, and getting in to the site.

Later, when she was comparing details between plans, the experience changed, she said.

"It was actually when it came time to choose a plan that I started to run into complications," she said.

It wasn't always clear what is and is not covered, or what doctors are in or out of network on each plan, she added.

Hear more about her experience here:

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