(HealthDay News) — U.S. consumers who sign up for health insurance by March 31 won’t face tax penalties for being uninsured during the first three months of 2014, the Obama administration said Thursday.

The new deadline, which marks the end of the 2014 open-enrollment period, gives uninsured individuals and families six more weeks to enroll in a health-coverage plan. The Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s broad and controversial health-reform package, requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Many experts had interpreted language in the law to mean that fines would take effect in mid-February, but the White House confirmed the March 31 deadline.

The administration’s announcement comes amid ongoing concerns, including among some Democrats who supported the health-reform law, that many Americans who want to sign up for coverage have been unable to access HealthCare.gov, the federal health care marketplace, due to computer difficulties.

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As for how the new deadline will be enforced, Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Thursday: “This is something that [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] is working on, and we expect to issue something soon.”