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WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- President Obama has extended the health care exchange deadline for those who start the process before March 31, Health and Human Services officials say.

"Open enrollment ends March 31," said Julie Bataille, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman. "We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment—either online or over the phone."

When the website, Healthcare.gov, was overwhelmed by people trying to enroll in late December to gain health coverage by Jan. 1, the administration enacted a similar stretch of the deadline for those who tried to enroll but did not make the deadline.

This time, officials said they would loosen the deadline for those with "complex or extenuating" circumstances that keep them from fully enrolling by March 31, the last day of open enrollment, and the last day to buy health insurance to avoid paying a fine with 2014 taxes.

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