TODAY   |  March 31, 2014

Obamacare enrollment deadline arrives

Millions of Americans have just a few hours left to sign up for insurance under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration is making a final push to sign people up. NBC chief political director Chuck Todd weighs in on the plan, and White House correspondent Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> the deadline for open enrollment under the affordable care act . a point of controversy and complaints, of course. and the obama administration's making a final push to sign people up. let's get to peter alexander at the white house this morning. peter, good morning.

>> savannah, good morning to you. it is finally here as you noted. this is your last chance to sign up for private health insurance in 2015 . and your last chance to avoid paying a penalty if you don't. the health care .gov website has been flooded with 2 million visits this weekend alone. in fact, for some hours this morning, a software bug actually knocked it offline. the administration officials tell us their tech team is working to fix it and should have it online as soon as possible.

>> nothing like a deadline to get people moving. across the country, a last-minute surge of sign-ups. and at call centers , 2 1/2 million calls in the last week alone, more than the entire month of february. in addition to the president, the white house has enlisted the cast of celebrities to make the obamacare pitch.

>> spread the word and get covered today.

>> despite the infamous issues out of the gate. administration officials are now touting more than 6 million sign-ups through late last week. this is what they were shooting for last september.

>> i think success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of march, 2014 .

>> still, plenty of questions remain unanswered. among them, how many people have actually paid for their new coverage. what's the breakdown between young and old enrollees? and how will next year's premiums be affected? obamacare remains the most divisive issue in politics today. republican critics have relentlessly attacked the law, its cost and the shifting deadline. one senator even dismissing the latest enrollment figure, too.

>> i don't think it means anything, chris. i think they're cooking the books on this.

>> reporter: administration officials say no one is going to be penalized if they are, as they describe it, trying to sign up when midnight comes tonight. savannah, the official enrollment totals in the young versus old breakdown likely won't come for a couple of weeks. experts say a couple of years before we know how well the law works.

>> peter alexander , thank you.

>> let's bring in chuck todd , the chief white house correspondent and political director. chuck, good morning to you.

>> good morning, sir.

>> start with that simple question. are they cooking the books with these numbers? when you talk to people in neutral corners of washington, what are they telling you?

>> no one's saying they're cooking the books here. the 6 million is pretty real. there's been an insurance company examination about who has been paying. and so far, looks like over 80% of those signed up have actually paid in the first month. that seems to be something that's also a myth that isn't as true as some would like it to be as far as folks on the right. but i think in the big picture here, you've got remember where they started. there was real fear inside the white house this law could collapse, they wouldn't get here. so at a minimum, the importance of hitting the 6 million. and they may get close to 7 million. because don't forget, this is a sort of deadline tonight, right? they've got all the caveats in. if you're in line, they've got until the end of the month. but getting to where they've got, it means the law is unrepealable, matt. it means it's here to stay. we've advanced to the next part of the debate is, okay, how do you fix the problems that people think are there.

>> you can't repeal it, but does that mean seven months down the road that this will be any less of an issue in terms of close races in congressional districts ?

>> no, i don't think at this point the law is so embedded. it's sort of a political negative for the democrats and political negative overall that i don't think anything's going to change by november. that this is going to take maybe two years for the politics of this to work itself out. and that's assuming everything continues to go as the administration has claimed it would. right now, you've got the 7 million that are signing up and over time , they get more and more. don't forget here, we have 35 million people without insurance, okay. when you throw in all of the numbers, the expanded medicaid of about 4 million, new sign-ups of about 7 million, and the 26-year-olds, that's 15 million. we still have 35 million uninsured. so they still have got to start working on getting that number down.

>> chuck todd in washington. thanks