High volume, long wait at California's health site 

click to enlarge Eric Alvarez, 4, plays as he and his sister, Emily, 3, wait with their grandparents, Antonio Bello, left, and Maria Refugio wait to sign-up for health care coverage at a registration site hosted by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. Dozens attended the event to sign up for health coverage ahead of Monday's midnight enrollment deadline. - AP PHOTO/RICH PEDRONCELLI
  • AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
  • Eric Alvarez, 4, plays as he and his sister, Emily, 3, wait with their grandparents, Antonio Bello, left, and Maria Refugio wait to sign-up for health care coverage at a registration site hosted by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. Dozens attended the event to sign up for health coverage ahead of Monday's midnight enrollment deadline.

California's health insurance exchange is experiencing a high volume of users, leading to a sluggish website and long wait times as consumers make their final enrollment dash to avoid a tax penalty.

Midnight Monday marks the enrollment deadline under President Barack Obama's health reform law. Covered California, the state's insurance exchange, reported Monday that more than 1.2 million people have signed up for individual policies.

But the last-minute surge is slowing down the exchange's website and boosting the average wait time for those seeking help by phone to more than an hour.

Executive Director Peter Lee says officials have turned off the "preview plan" feature on the website to reduce congestion. The exchange also will ask consumers who start the enrollment process to return and finish their application later, when there is less traffic.

Californians who start the process by midnight will have until April 15 to complete their applications.

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