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Nation & World

Insurers extend payment deadline for Jan. 1 Obamacare coverage

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 on 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 like Medicare and Medicaid.

The announcement Wednesday 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 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.

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