Enrollment surge means rocky start to 2016 for health insurance customers

The large surge in health insurance enrollment at the end of 2015 has resulted in problems for thousands of insurance customers in the new year, according to an Associated Press report.

Brokers and insurers in several states said they've been inundated with complaints from customers, including the failure to receive their insurance ID cards and billing errors, the AP reported. Complaints have come from customers with individual plans and those with coverage through small businesses.

Insurance provider Health Care Service Corp. has been dealing with delays for about 10,000 applications, but had resolved about half of them as of late last week, the AP reported. And in North Carolina, Blue Cross Blue Shield experienced a "system failure" that led to pervasive billing issues for customers. The company told the AP nearly all of its customers have now received their insurance cards and it had reversed a vast majority of bank account overdrafts that occurred with 3,200 customers who were charged too much for coverage.

"I've been in the health insurance business 20 plus years, and I've never seen anything like this," Dallas-based broker Tanya Boyd, told the AP. She estimated hundreds of customers have complained about delays in receiving their insurance cards or a confirmation of coverage.

The delays have meant some customers have had to pay for care out of their own pocket or wait for their insurance cards to arrive before seeking healthcare, the article added.

Since the start of the latest open enrollment period last fall, nearly 8.7 million consumers signed up for health coverage through Healthcare.gov or had their coverage automatically renewed, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The department said it saw unprecedented demand for plans leading up to the deadline to receive coverage by Jan. 1. In fact, the government provided a last-minute enrollment deadline extension, giving people two more days to sign up because of the heavy demand. An estimated 11.3 million customers have signed up for plans through both the federal exchange and state-run insurance exchanges.

More customers were also shopping for coverage in late 2015 after carriers ended plans in some markets. Customers were also left scrambling for coverage after the closure of a slew of consumer operated and oriented plans launched under the Affordable Care Act.

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