Karen Ignagni (C-SPAN image)

Members of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) have agreed voluntarily that insurers will extend the payment deadline for exchange plans that start Jan. 1 to Jan. 10.

The payment deadline extension will affect both state-based plans and plans sold through the exchanges run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Consumers still must select exchange plans by Dec. 23.

The original enrollment deadline for individual “qualified health plan” (QHP) coverage purchased through the HHS-run exchanges was Dec. 15.

HHS later moved the enrollment deadline to Dec. 23, then asked QHP issuers to move the payment deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. HHS gave states and insurers the option of extending the payment deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1 to Jan. 31, if the insurers were willing to go along with that.

The AHIP board said member insurers believe the timeline created by the HHS changes was too tight, especially given continuing technical problems with the HHS HealthCare.gov exchange enrollment system.

The HealthCare.gov problems, and the fact that the enrollment process is going on around the winter holidays, “have raised concerns that some consumers’ coverage may not be able to begin on Jan. 1,” the AHIP board said.

AHIP President Karen Ignagni said in a statement of her own that the health insurance community wants to give consumers greater peace of mind about their health coverage.

Health plans are voluntarily making this one-time change to the payment deadline to help protect consumers from potential gaps in their coverage caused by the ongoing technical problems with HealthCare.gov,” AHIP said. “Significant progress has been made in recent weeks to improve the enrollment process for consumers, but more work needs to be done to resolve the back-end challenges, particularly those related to processing enrollment files, to ensure all consumers who selected a plan are enrolled in coverage.”

AHIP noted that states have the flexibility to set different deadlines.

But the payment deadline extension should help all consumers, AHIP said.

“Consumers should check with the plan they have selected for more details about their specific coverage policy,” AHIP said.

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