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By Michael Norton

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE — Heavy call volumes in connection with Tuesday’s deadline to apply for, pick and pay for a health insurance plan for Jan. 1 coverage have created long wait times for consumers, and state officials announced they are pushingg back the deadline to pay for a plan.

“This morning we saw extremely high volume,” Maydad Cohen, the Patrick administration official overseeing enrollment efforts through a redesigned website, said during an early afternoon conference call with media. “I know people experienced wait times of around an hour.”

Cohen said a payment deadline was being extended slightly to alleviate pressure on consumers who are just learning about their eligibility for insurance products and making decisions about which ones to enroll in. He predicted a “huge number” of consumers would make payments Tuesday, but the official deadline to submit payment has been extended until Sunday. Consumers needing health coverage must still select a plan through the Connector by midnight Tuesday.

“Our ability to process is there,” Cohen said, later emphasizing that people should pay as soon as they can.

State officials reported Wednesday that call centers have extended their hours to meet capacity, with a projected 780 full-time equivalent workers taking calls and processing applications Tuesday.

On Monday, the “average speed of answer” was 23.6 minutes compared to 11.8 minutes on Dec. 19. The average “abandonment rate” was 34.4 percent on Monday, up from 22.7 percent on Friday.

After the Health Connector’s website was plagued with problems, it was fixed and Cohen said Tuesday he was pleased with its performance.

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