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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is seeking to clarify penalty rules for people who delay signing up for coverage under the new health care law.

Simply put: People who wait until the end of the initial enrollment period — March 31 — will not be penalized.

The Obama administration is preparing legal guidance to address a confusion of dates in the law, which says people must sign up by the 15th of one month to receive coverage on the first of the next month.

That means someone who signed up after Feb. 15 would not be covered until April 1 — and the law also says that people who go three months without coverage are subject to penalties, $95 or 1% of household income, whichever is higher.

The White House says that officials are working on new legal guidance to better coordinate the different datelines.

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"If there is no course correction, individuals who have bought insurance on the marketplaces by March 31 could nevertheless be penalized for not having their insurance start by March 31," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "And we are working to issue guidance that would make sure that doesn't happen."

Carney described it as "simply an alignment of deadlines."

He added that "the individual mandate timing has not changed. The deadline for signing up for insurance was and is March 31."

In the meantime, Health and Human Services officials are also working to fix problems with the HealthCare.gov website, which is blocking some people from enrolling in health exchanges.

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