Health insurance producers have been scrambling to get a staggering surfeit of clients both enrolled in quality coverage and paying their premiums by the end of the year—no mean feat in a season that already boasts tight deadlines and massive amounts of stress.
While the administration has firmly held to the Dec. 23 deadline for signing up clients for coverage, however, health carriers are giving consumers and their agents a bit of a break.
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry’s largest trade group, said consumers who select a plan by Dec. 23 will now have until Jan. 10 to pay their first month’s premium, instead of the previous, government-set deadline of New Year’s Eve.
AHIP represents more than 90% of health insurance carriers, including the major nationals like BlueCross BlueShield.
Karen Ignagni, the group’s CEO, said the decision was fueled by a desire “to give consumers greater peace of mind about their health coverage.”
The deadline extension will give consumers coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, allowing them both more time to pay and the benefit of complete coverage until their check arrives. That eliminates the potential for a gap in coverage for the more than 4mn Americans losing their individual, “substandard” plans at the end of the year.
That potential gap is something that’s been keeping producers awake at night, said former Texas Association of Health Underwriters President Kelly Fristoe.
“I’ve got somebody who’s going through cancer treatment right now and her coverage is going to terminate the last day of December,” Fristoe said. “She needs coverage, and if she can’t get a plan and pay the bill on-time, then she’s uninsured and that’s a problem.”
With the new deadline, Fristoe’s client will be able to go from her old insurance plan to the new without a gap in coverage, even if her premium check doesn’t arrive until Jan. 10. Previously, she would have had to wait until Feb. 1 for coverage.