America's Health Insurance Plans
says its members will allow payments to arrive as late as Jan. 10 for coverage purchased through the state and federal exchanges
that kicks in at the start of 2014.
The insurer trade group's board of directors voted to voluntarily extend the payment deadline.
“Our community is taking an important step to give consumers greater peace of mind about their healthcare coverage,” said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni
, in a statement Wednesday.
Last week, HHS officials announced that insurers
would be required to accept payments through Dec. 31
. The administration also asked insurance companies to voluntarily extend payment deadlines beyond that date.
The changes are intended to provide flexibility in what's expected to be a chaotic end to 2013 and the launch of new health plans sold through insurance marketplaces established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
. Owing to the problem-plagued rollout of the federal HealthCare.gov enrollment portal
, and similar difficulties with some state exchanges, initial enrollments are way behind what officials projected they would be at the end of December.
They have seen a dramatic spike in recent weeks, however. In California, for example, the online marketplace was seeing 15,000 enrollments a day as of last week, according to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. That was more than twice the rate of signups in the first week of December.
Insurers remain concerned about the accuracy and completeness of the information they're getting from the federal government about new enrollees. But in recent days, both insurers and HHS officials have indicated that those problems have been significantly reduced.
Customers have until Dec. 23 to enroll in coverage that will be effective Jan. 1. The open enrollment period continues until March 31, when almost all Americans will be required to have insurance or face a financial penalty.
AHIP's move to extend payment deadlines will not likely mean that all insurance customers will have until Jan. 10 to pay for coverage. Connecticut previously announced that premiums were due by Jan. 7. On a call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Kevin Counihan, CEO of Access Health CT, indicated the state would stick with that deadline. Likewise, Lee said California would keep its previously announced deadline of Jan. 6.
“Healthcare's local,” Lee said. “The arrangements are local.”Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko