Processing problems lead to delayed payment deadlines

Amid billing and processing problems preventing some consumers from receiving coverage, many insurers are extending payment deadlines for their new members.

California's two largest insurers--Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente--have postponed the deadline for new enrollees to pay their first premiums to Jan. 31 and Jan. 22, respectively, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Connecticut also pushed back its payment deadline for the second time in two weeks. The insurer has been struggling to process members who signed up for plans sold on the state's health insurance exchange in the last two months, the Hartford Courant reported.

"In response to the high volume of calls we are receiving we're stepping up our operations to meet the needs of our customers," Anthem spokeswoman Sarah Yeager told the Courant. "We have extended the deadline to January 31 for individual market customers--on and off exchanges--to pay their premium and have coverage the entire month of January."

And Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Texas and Tennessee have delayed the cutoff date for premium payments. The Texas insurer, which set a new deadline of Jan. 30, emphasized that coverage isn't activated until consumers pay their first month's premium, reported D Healthcare Daily.

Deciding to postpone the premium payment deadline for new members until Jan. 31, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee said it wanted "to provide as much flexibility as possible for our members--many of whom are new to the process of purchasing insurance," the Memphis Business Journal reported.

But could these delays actually burden insurers willfully extending the deadlines? About 60 percent of consumers who have enrolled in an exchange plan have paid their first premium, reported the Daily Caller. And since the reform law guarantees a 90-day grace period, during which insurers are prohibited from dropping consumers for not paying their premiums, consumers could obtain medical care and then cancel their plan before the grace period ends, thereby leaving insurers waiting around for unpaid premiums.

To learn more:
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- see the Hartford Courant article
- check out the D Healthcare Daily article
- read the Memphis Business Journal article
- check out the Daily Caller article

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