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First Coast Connect

First Coast Obamacare Enrollment Continues Hours Before Deadline

Patrick Donges

Today marks the deadline for Americans without health insurance to enroll for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also known as, the online marketplace that had a troubled rollout, went down for several hours early this morning.

At the same time the Obama administration is touting new numbers that show more than 6 million Americans have signed up for insurance, and they believe they are on track to hit their goal of 7 million enrollees.

Republicans continue to argue the law is flawed and should either be repealed or altered. Should Republicans take the U.S. Senate in this fall's midterm elections, it's expected there will be major attempts to do just that.

Meanwhile, enrollment has been robust in Florida, with nearly half a million residents of the Sunshine State gaining coverage through

Tony Penna, field director for Enroll America here in North Florida, joined Melissa Ross for the the latest as the final deadline approaches.

"It seems pretty obvious that a lot of people need health insurance coverage," Penna said, noting the 3.9 million uninsured residents in Florida, the second highest uninsured rate in the country next to Texas.

This weekend alone, Penna said, there have been several successful enrollment events leading up to today's deadline.

"We had an event yesterday at the Gateway Mall where about 550 people showed up to get coverage," he said. "They're showing up in mass numbers."

Despite poll data showing just 38 percent of people support the law, Penna said there are majorities who support specific parts of the law.

He said polling has shown 70 percent of Americans support the provision that lets people with pre-existing conditions receive coverage.

Despite the deadline, the Obama administration announced last week they would allow people who began to apply for coverage but cannot finish by midnight on March 31 have until mid-April to apply for an extension.

Additional extensions will also be made available on a case-by-case basis through federally sponsored call centers for people who have had a baby, are getting a divorce, are changing jobs or those had a technical problem with the website.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.