Top health care insurers say they will accept premium payments until Jan. 10 for coverage that begins Jan. 1, a three-week extension of the deadline that will make it easier for those who experience technical bugs on healthcare.gov to get insurance in the new year.
America's Health Insurance Plans, the leading health insurance trade association, announced the deadline extension Wednesday, saying it would give those who have enrolled in the new federal insurance exchanges more time to pay their first month’s premium. The original deadline was Dec. 23.
Consumers must still pay their first month’s premium before coverage takes effect, but those who pay their premium by Jan. 10 will now be able to have coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, AHIP said in a release.
“Our community is taking an important step to give consumers greater peace of mind about their health care coverage,” said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni.
Insurers are making the one-time change to the payment deadline in order to help protect consumers from potential gaps in their coverage “caused by the ongoing technical problems with healthcare.gov,” AHIP said.
“Significant progress has been made in recent weeks to improve the enrollment process for consumers, but more work needs to be done to resolve the back-end challenges, particularly those related to processing enrollment files, to ensure all consumers who selected a plan are enrolled in coverage,” AHIP said in its release.
The Obama administration said that a technical bug affected approximately 25 percent of enrollments on healthcare.gov in October and November, affecting 15,000 applications. The administration has since said that it has reduced that figure to 10 percent in early December, and in the last past week said the error rate is now negligible.
Those early technical problems, separate from the troubles consumers experienced accessing information on the website during its first two months, are posing a significant new problem for those who signed up and expect insurance coverage Jan. 1.
One in four of those applications either did not get transferred to insurers, was transferred in duplicate form or had major errors in information shared.
Those forms, meant to be read by computers, provide insurers with information on enrollees and what plans they have chosen. Without the information, insurers have no way of knowing who has signed up on the Obamacare exchanges and what coverage they need.
Insurers have tried to reach out to all those who signed up for coverage through healthcare.gov to ensure they include all enrollees and have also encouraged consumers who believe they successfully navigated the website and signed up to pay their bills and check with their insurers to make sure they will be covered come Jan. 1.