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Health Highlights: Dec. 15, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Health Insurance Websites Increasingly Busy Ahead of Deadline

The HealthCare.gov and state insurance websites are preparing for a surge of action Monday as the deadline looms for new customers to choose health insurance plans that take effect Jan. 1, and for current coverage holders to make changes that could save them money.

The deadline is midnight Monday, Pacific time, which is 3 a.m. on Tuesday in the East, the Associated Press reported.

Consumers phoning the federal telephone help line began having longer wait times (an average of 20 minutes) about the middle of last week as a large number of current enrollees started seeking information about their coverage for next year.

Premiums will rise for many current customers, but they might be able to reduce the amount of the increase by shopping online for a better deal, the AP reported.

Currently, about 6.7 million people have coverage through the Obama administration's health insurance program, and the goal is to have 9.1 million by 2015.

Selecting an insurance plan can be challenging for many people, "but they appreciate the ability to get health insurance," Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities, an Austin, Texas, nonprofit that is helping sign up low-income residents, told the AP.

"People who haven't gone through the process don't understand how complicated it is," she added.

Last year's open enrollment was plagued by technical problems that affected HealthCare.gov from the first day. While the website is now functioning fairly well, new problems continue to occur, the AP reported.

Eleven percent of Americans said they or someone else in their household tried to sign up since the start of open enrollment on Nov. 15, according to an AP-GfK survey.

Nine percent of those respondents said the insurance markets were working extremely or very well, 26 percent said they were working somewhat well, 39 percent said they were not working well, and 24 percent said they didn't know enough to offer an opinion.

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