Insurers volunteer to delay payment deadline to Jan. 10

America's Health Insurance Plans has voluntarily decided its insurer members will extend the payment deadline for consumers who buy plans sold on health insurance exchanges, the group announced Wednesday.

The extension, which postpones the deadline for consumers to pay their first month's premiums from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 10, 2013, applies to both state and federal exchanges. But consumers must still choose which plan to enroll in by Dec. 23 and their coverage will still begin Jan. 1.

"Our community is taking an important step to give consumers greater peace of mind about their healthcare coverage," AHIP CEO Karen Ignagni said in the statement.

Although AHIP's decision doesn't require each insurer to extend the payment deadline, all the major insurers have agreed to uphold the delay, reported The Washington Post.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services last week required insurers to accept payment for consumers' first premiums through Dec. 31. But AHIP said its member insurers thought the HHS timeline was too tight, particularly since is still facing back-end problems with its enrollment functions. So insurers volunteered to push back the payment deadline even further to Jan. 10.

Some state-run exchanges actually have extended the deadlines even longer. Maryland, for example, postponed the sign-up date to Dec. 27 and the payment date to Jan. 15 because its online marketplace has been fraught with technical issues, reported NPR's Shots.

To learn more:
- here's the AHIP statement
- read The Washington Post article
- check out NPR's Shots article