- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A trade group for insurers said health plans across the country are delaying the deadline for Obamacare consumers to pay their first premium by 10 days, citing the holidays and problems with HealthCare.gov.

America’s Health Insurance Plans said customers who select a plan by Monday on one of the health care law’s state-based insurance markets will have until Jan. 10 — instead of Jan. 1 — to pay up.

“Our community is taking an important step to give consumers greater peace of mind about their health care coverage,” AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said.

The change comes in direct response to worry that some Americans will experience a coverage gap if they cannot select a plan and pay by New Year’s Day, after technical glitches hampered the federal Obamacare web portal in October and November.

“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 said in its announcement.

The voluntary move comes about a week after the Obama administration urged insurers to offer some flexibility in when they cover consumers, even if consumers do not make a full payment by Jan. 1.

The White House is under pressure in the coming weeks to make accommodations for people who face a coverage gap, because millions of Americans lost existing health plans that did not meet Obamacare’s coverage requirements. These consumers had difficulty exploring alternatives on HealthCare.gov, the portal that serves 36 states, particularly before technical fixes took root at the start of this month.

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