Obamacare Deadlines Shortened By Lack of Payment Options
1:25 PM, Nov 18, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
When the Obama administration launched the Healthcare.gov website on October 1, the president and his officials focused on the coverage that would now be available to the uninsured as of January 1, 2014. However, with the recent flood of cancellations of those who were told they could "keep their plan," millions more will need new insurance in place by the beginning of the new year. The well publicized "glitches" have slowed enrollment considerably, and now there is new evidence that consumers will find themselves with even less time to secure coverage than originally thought.
An editorial in last week’s USA Today repeats the common belief about the deadline: "The deadline for signing up for insurance that begins Jan. 1 is Dec. 15." However, "signing up" for insurance is not enough. As the Healthcare.gov website states [emphasis added]:
Kathleen Sebelius echoed this requirement in a Wednesday conference call:
However, paying the premium is not necessarily a simple matter. An online chat with a Healthcare.gov representative revealed that the site is not recommending using the exchange to make the initial premium payment. The representative was not even completely sure the option was being offered. Here is an excerpt from the chat [emphasis added]:
The federal government run exchange is not the only one to experience problems with premium payments. The Maryland Health Connection, that state's version of the Obamacare exchange, announced a week ago Friday that it was suspending the bill-pay feature indefinitely:
In addition, just last Friday, Maryland announced that individuals should enroll early to allow time for billing and payment:
Since information regarding plans, premiums, and possibly subsidies must pass from the exchanges to the insurance companies before the consumer can be billed, someone who waits until December 15 to enroll seems unlikely to secure coverage by January 1. The mid-December deadline therefore would appear to be optimistic, and in reality probably falls earlier in the month, very close to the November 30 target date for the Healthcare.gov website to be fixed. The window of opportunity for consumers needing coverage for 2014 for all practical purposes may be about a week.
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