CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Insurers push Obamacare payment deadline to late January

Wed Jan 8, 2014 4:21pm EST

(Corrects fourth paragraph to show Health Care Service Corp deadline is Jan. 30, not Jan. 31)

By Caroline Humer

NEW YORK Jan 8 (Reuters) - Some top U.S. health insurers are giving consumers more time to pay their Obamacare premiums, extending the deadline to the end of January for benefits that begin retroactively from Jan. 1.

The new extension adds to a series of deadline delays by government and the insurance industry to compensate for technical failures and errors plaguing the enrollment process under President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

The Obama administration and insurers have been working to prevent cases where problems in setting up new policies meant a consumer who thought they had insurance would not have benefits when they needed them. Republican opponents of the law have seized on its troubled rollout as a top issue for 2014 congressional elections.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and three more BCBS plans that are part of the privately held Health Care Service Corp chain have moved the first payment deadline to Jan. 30 from Jan. 10. All of the plans are sold through the federal website HealthCare.gov, which had a Dec. 24 deadline for customers to enroll and be guaranteed coverage by Jan. 1 in 36 states.

Others, including Aetna Inc, said they were still considering this Friday to be the payment deadline.

Technical problems prevented consumer access to HealthCare.gov in the first two months following its launch on Oct. 1. An emergency effort to fix the site allowed hundreds of thousands of people to use it daily by early December, and the Obama administration urged insurers to give consumers leeway to sort through any remaining errors. America's Health Insurance Plans, a top industry trade and lobbying group, recommended a first payment deadline of Jan. 10.

By late December, more than 2 million people nationwide had picked new private insurance plans under Obamacare, but the number included consumers who have yet to pay their first premium and therefore are not truly enrolled.

Insurers say they have been communicating to customers through social media, targeted emails and telephone calls to let them know they need to pay.

"We have been receiving a significant volume of payments and continue to assist members in activating their coverage. But some signed up close to the deadline, so we are extending the payment deadline to give customers extra time to pay their first month's premium," Lauren Perlstein Plungas, a spokeswoman for Health Care Service Corp, said in a statement.

Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield, based in Philadelphia, is also moving its time frame to pay, until Jan. 28, a spokeswoman said. Independence is selling its plans for Pennsylvania on HealthCare.gov.

WellPoint Inc, which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield in 14 states and is known for its Anthem and Empire brands, said that its first payment deadline is now Jan. 15. WellPoint is selling plans on HealthCare.gov and on some of the 14 exchanges run by states. It had previously set a Jan. 10 deadline.

The state-run Covered California exchange announced this past weekend that it was moving the payment date for insurance plans to Jan. 15 from a previous deadline of Jan. 6, saying that its extension was aimed at easing the rush by consumers to pay their invoices.

In Connecticut, the three insurers selling Obamacare plans have established three different deadlines for Jan. 1 coverage: Jan. 10, 15 and 17, the head of the state's Access Health exchange Kevin Counihan said on Wednesday. In addition, the deadline for Feb. 1 coverage is also Jan. 15.

"This is all just part of everyone's scrambling to meet some of the administrative complexities of implementation and enrollment," Counihan said. "Part of the challenge is that there are so many dates out there that consumers have the risk of being confused." (Reporting by Caroline Humer; editing by Michele Gershberg, Stephen Powell and Richard Chang)

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Comments (10)
Reagans.ghost wrote:
A large number of enrollees who did not pay are obama voters who still believe they signed up for free health care. Someone needs to tell these Obamaians that nothing is free and they need to start paying their fair share.

Jan 09, 2014 12:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
pebbles14 wrote:
Another option: just refuse. Which many more of us should be prepared to do as patriotic, freedom loving Americans. Starting with this:
Will Obamacare be repealed or won’t it? Will Congress fund it or won’t it? Will the web site be fixed or not? Blah, blah, blah. We the people just need to do what we need to do and Congress be damned. Resist. Refuse. Revolt. EXEMPT OURSELVES! We did not comply with Prohibition and we simply should not comply with Obamacare. For religious reasons. For privacy reasons. For the cause of liberty and freedom and in protest of the idea that the federal government (under one party rule, no less), can force private citizens to purchase anything with our own money. Are we citizens or subjects? Mice or (wo)men? Just say NO to socialism and to the corrupt, unionized, far left IRS: the gestapo of America’s political class. After all, the federal government ignores millions of illegals who are breaking U.S. immigration law every day. Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. All we have to do is just say no to a scheme we all know is un-American and a violation of our most basic founding fundamentals of privacy, self reliance, limited government and individual freedom.
How To Opt Out Of Obamacare
Know your options and become savvy self-pay patients. Join a health care sharing ministry. These are voluntary, charitable membership organizations that agree to share medical bills among the membership. They function similar to insurance, and are probably the best alternative to conventional health insurance. There are four of them, at least that I know of. Three are open only to practicing Christians (Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Christian Care Ministry) while a fourth, Liberty HealthShare, is open to anyone who agrees with their ethical commitment to religious liberty. They operate entirely outside of Obamacare’s regulations, and typically offer benefits for about half the cost of similar health insurance. Members are also exempt from having to pay the tax for being uninsured.

From the article by Sean Parnell

http://thefederalist.com/2013/12/04/opt-obamacare/#.Up9MwGKiM_o.email

Jan 09, 2014 1:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
pebbles14 wrote:
Another option: just refuse. Which many more of us should be prepared to do as patriotic, freedom loving Americans. Starting with this:
Will Obamacare be repealed or won’t it? Will Congress fund it or won’t it? Will the web site be fixed or not? Blah, blah, blah. We the people just need to do what we need to do and Congress be damned. Resist. Refuse. Revolt. EXEMPT OURSELVES! We did not comply with Prohibition and we simply should not comply with Obamacare. For religious reasons. For privacy reasons. For the cause of liberty and freedom and in protest of the idea that the federal government (under one party rule, no less), can force private citizens to purchase anything with our own money. Are we citizens or subjects? Mice or (wo)men? Just say NO to socialism and to the corrupt, unionized, far left IRS: the gestapo of America’s political class. After all, the federal government ignores millions of illegals who are breaking U.S. immigration law every day. Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. All we have to do is just say no to a scheme we all know is un-American and a violation of our most basic founding fundamentals of privacy, self reliance, limited government and individual freedom.
How To Opt Out Of Obamacare
Know your options and become savvy self-pay patients. Join a health care sharing ministry. These are voluntary, charitable membership organizations that agree to share medical bills among the membership. They function similar to insurance, and are probably the best alternative to conventional health insurance. There are four of them, at least that I know of. Three are open only to practicing Christians (Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Christian Care Ministry) while a fourth, Liberty HealthShare, is open to anyone who agrees with their ethical commitment to religious liberty. They operate entirely outside of Obamacare’s regulations, and typically offer benefits for about half the cost of similar health insurance. Members are also exempt from having to pay the tax for being uninsured.

From the article by Sean Parnell

http://thefederalist.com/2013/12/04/opt-obamacare/#.Up9MwGKiM_o.email

Jan 09, 2014 1:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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