With less than two hours to go before President Obama is scheduled to give his year-end news conference, people are not able to apply for health insurance on HealthCare.gov.

The home page is still present, but when one tries to apply for a health plan, the site says the "system is down." A message on the screen says it is part of "scheduled maintenance."

The deadline for people to obtain coverage for the New Year is Dec. 23 -- which means the site could see in spike in visits in the coming days.

Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman with the Department of Health and Human Services, said the system was deliberately taken down Friday morning due to an error that needed to be fixed. She said it should be up by early afternoon.

"Right now HealthCare.gov is queuing consumers," Peters said. "This system is in place while the tech team works on fixing an error that happened during routine maintenance last night. This work started at 10 a.m. and we anticipate this could take two to three hours and that the site will be up and running again soon."

In a briefing with reporters Thursday, a senior administration official they have “intentionally bolstered staffing at our call center” to cope with the increased online demand.

“We've added about 800 new agents to the overall staffing, so when you look at our overall staffing mix, we've got more than 12,000 trained customer service reps across 17 sites nationwide that are ready to take live calls, live web chats,” said the official, who asked not to be identified in order to discuss ongoing operations. “And those people have all undergone additional training in preparation for December 23rd.”

The official added that Health and Human Services expected the website would have to activate its queuing system during peak demand times on Dec. 23.

Update 1:15 p.m.: The maintenance message is gone, but the Web site is overloaded and asking people wait.

Update 2:04 p.m.: The Web site appears to be operating normally now.