Obamacare coverage deadline extended

Consumers now have until Jan. 10 to make payments




Washingtonians get insurance deadline reprieve

SEATTLE — Washington residents who have started but not finished their applications for insurance through the state’s new health care exchange are getting a deadline reprieve, state officials announced Wednesday.

Anyone who begins an application before the previous deadline of Dec. 23 will get as much help as they need to finish and won’t face a real deadline until Jan. 15, said Michael Marchand, spokesman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

“The most important thing I want people to do is to take the action to get that application started. We can work with them at that point,” Marchand said Wednesday.

People who have started an application on the Washington healthplanfinder website, can expect emails and letters and phone calls offering them help to finish their applications.

If they complete the application they began by Dec. 23 and pay by Jan. 15, their insurance benefits will cover them retroactively to Jan. 1, according to the revised rules.

Cooperative insurance companies made this deadline extension possible, Marchand said.

Those who don’t start their application online, in person or on the phone before that date won’t be eligible for insurance on Jan. 1, but they will still have until the end of March to get insurance and avoid a federal government fine.

— The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The nation's largest health insurance industry trade group announced Wednesday that consumers, frustrated by technical problems with federal and state health insurance marketplaces, will get more time to pay for individual coverage that begins Jan. 1.

The board of directors of America's Health Insurance Plans said consumers who select an individual health plan by Dec. 23 will now have until Jan. 10 to make their first month's premium payment for retroactive coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2014.

The previous payment deadline for Jan. 1 coverage was Dec. 31.

The one-time voluntary change to the payment deadline will prevent potential coverage gaps that could arise as people switch plans and work their way through enrollment delays. Technical problems on state health insurance marketplaces and the HealthCare.gov website, which serves as the portal for the federal marketplace, have led to numerous problems for consumers attempting to enroll in policies.

Karen Ignagni, the insurance group's president and CEO, said insurers are "taking an important step to give consumers greater peace of mind about their health care coverage." The group's members cover more than 200 million Americans through job-based, individual and public coverage programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Wednesday's announcement follows a request last week by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for a more flexible payment schedule.

Insurers and HHS are already trying to confirm the enrollments of several hundred thousand people who thought they had coverage from HealthCare.gov as of New Year's Day.

Many of the daily enrollment reports sent to insurers by the federal marketplace contained errors and omissions that jeopardized consumers' Jan. 1 coverage status. As a result, the Obama administration and insurers have been working for several weeks to verify each HealthCare.gov enrollment. The extended payment deadline will help those whose coverage may have been compromised by the process.

The Obama administration urges all consumers to verify their marketplace coverage enrollments by contacting their insurers directly.