Most Shared

Health Care Reform
 
text size

Insurers allow more time to pay under health law

Updated: Thursday, December 19 2013, 03:35 PM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumers anxious over tight insurance deadlines and lingering computer problems during the holidays will get extra time to pay their premiums under President Barack Obama's health care law, insurers announced Wednesday.

The board of the industry's biggest trade group — America's Health Insurance Plans — said consumers who select a plan by Dec. 23 will now have until Jan. 10 to pay their first month's premium. That's 10 extra days beyond a New Year's Eve deadline set by the government.

The voluntary move comes as insurers and the government try to head off anticipated problems around the first of the year, when new coverage options for the uninsured take effect under Obama's law, and when several million people whose existing policies were canceled must switch to new plans.

Expect even bigger political trouble for the president if consumers who made a good-faith effort to get covered through the government's balky website show up at the pharmacy and can't get prescriptions filled, or if they turn up in the emergency room and there's no record that they are enrolled. The stakes would be higher this time because someone's health could be jeopardized.

The administration applauded the industry decision. It will "ultimately make it easier for consumers to enroll" through the new online insurance markets, said Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters. The federal HealthCare.gov website is now working reasonably well, but insurers still report accuracy problems with enrollment information the government is sending about their new customers.

Karen Ignagni, CEO of the industry group, said the decision was taken "to give consumers greater peace of mind about their health care coverage." AHIP represents about 95 percent of the industry, including the major national carriers and nearly all the BlueCross BlueShield plans.

There may be a few insurers who do not follow the group's lead, so consumers are advised to check with their carrier. Consumers must pay their first month's premium on time for coverage to take effect.

The move burnishes the industry's image and has no real downside, said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalare Health, a market analysis firm. "It's useful for the consumer and not a problem for the plans," he said.

Insurers will still get paid for January. "They can book the revenue, and they don't need to worry about the cash flow," Mendelson said.

But the announcement does more than grant extra time. It also reduces the risk that consumers switching plans could suffer an interruption in coverage because of the technology woes encountered by the federal sign-up system, and some state-run websites.

That's particularly important for at least 4 million people whose existing individual plans were canceled because they did not meet standards under Obama's law. Disruptions in coverage for those consumers could have major political consequences for Obama and beleaguered HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Back in 2009, Obama had promised that people who liked their insurance would be able to keep it under his health overhaul plan. But that guarantee was shredded by the wave of cancellation notices, which crested right around the same time that HealthCare.gov was refusing to function for millions of potential customers. Obama's poll ratings took a nosedive.

Under the industry announcement, consumers still must select a plan by Dec. 23 — next Monday.

But instead of having to pay their first month's premium by New Year's Eve, they now have until Jan. 10. That would let them have coverage retroactive to Jan. 1. Patients who get a pharmacy or medical bill during that period can later submit it to the insurance company for payment.

Insurers have complained that a significant number of the enrollments they have gotten from HealthCare.gov have problems that could prevent a consumer from getting covered on Jan. 1. That includes missing or incomplete information, duplicative entries and garble. The administration says its technical experts are aggressively tackling the problems, and that errors have been cut dramatically. But insurers say useless or corrupted files are still getting through. Government and industry are working together to clean up the records.

Without the extra time granted Wednesday, a consumer who paid in early January would have had to wait until Feb. 1 for coverage.Insurers allow more time to pay under health law


Advertise with us!

Related Stories

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
 

Enrollment for healthcare exchanges as part of healthcare reform begins October 1 in states where exchanges will be set up. Expect special reports each week from us about what you need to know about 'Obamacare' and the ongoing political fight about its future.

Health Care National Stories
Court Decisions Leave Obamacare Hanging In The Balance

The Impact Of Obamacare On Women's Healthcare

When Will We Know What The Numbers Mean Behind Obamacare?

Small Businesses Size Up Taxes Under Affordable Care Act

Digging Through The Affordable Care Numbers

Deadline Is Over: Calculations Start

Marching To The Deadline

Cable Or Obamacare

Anti-Obamacare Ads

Another Delay In The Affordable Care Act

A New Wrinkle To The Affordable Care Act

Emergency Care On The Brink

An Early Cost Gauge Of Obamacare

Confusion Over ACA Still Reigns

The PR Campaign for Obamacare

Suing Over Healthcare

Obamacare in the Hands of President Obama

Paying for Obamacare

Health and Human Services Wastes Millions on Cancer Drug

A Chief Architect of Obamacare Gives Some Employees a Pass

Healthcare.Gov -- a Hackers Delight

How Healthy Are Insurance Co-Ops?

The Cost of the Affordable Care Act

Doubling Down On Affordable Care

Democrats Run For Cover

Enroll America Under Fire

The Republican Divide Over Healthcare

Congress Treated to the Royal Side of Obamacare

'Obamacare' Disappears From Talking Points and Promotion

Hacking Into Healthcare.gov

Changing the Rules to Obamacare

Healthcare Heartburn

Who Are The Healthcare Navigators?

Counting Obamacare Enrollees on One Hand

Is Sorry Enough?

"You Can Keep Your Healthcare Plan"

Other Looming Health Care Disasters

Heartbreaking Health Care Letters

The Few and Far Between

Millions of Americans Frustrated by Healthcare.Gov

When Did the White House Know Millions Would Lose Health Care Coverage?

Feds Promise to Fix the Affordable Care Website

Why is it so Difficult to Enroll for Healthcare Insurance?

Viewer Questions About the Affordable Care Act Asked and Answered

Sorting Out Fact from Fiction About Breast Cancer Screenings

What Changes are Coming to CHIP?

Confusion Over Health Care Law Still Persists

Doctor Visits

Health Care Spending

The Unexpected Costs of Health Care

Attempting to Derail Obamacare

Concerns Over the Cost of Healthcare

Rubio on Obamacare

Healthcare Exchanges

Defunding Obamacare

Healthcare Reform: A Doctor

Congress and Healthcare

No Change in Obamacare Opinions

Unions Oppose Obamacare

The Cost of Obamacare on Your Wallet

The Individual and Family cost of Healthcare under the new law

Questions and Answers About the Affordable Care Act

Whooping Cough Advisory

Lots of Questions About the Health Care Law

Healthcare Exchanges Continue to Generate Viewer Questions

Advertise with us!

Share your Health Care Reform questions and challenges with new health care laws.

Name
Location
Question