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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Patchwork of ObamaCare insurance deadlines
More confusion to come
So you've signed up for health care on the ObamaCare exchanges. Think you're covered? Not quite.
As with any insurance plan, new enrollees still have to pay their first month's premium to lock in coverage. But the deadlines for that task are different all over the country, adding to the confusion over an already-perplexing sign-up process.
"It makes an already kind of chaotic situation even more chaotic," Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers said.
The deadlines in the ObamaCare enrollment process have been a moving target. For those seeking coverage for the start of the new year, the deadline to sign up was originally Dec. 15. Then it was moved to Dec. 23, and then again to Dec. 24. Even after that deadline passed Tuesday night, the administration announced that those who ran into technical problems on HealthCare.gov could still seek an exemption and get covered by Jan. 1.
Then comes the next set of deadlines. After appeals from the Obama administration, major health insurers announced earlier this month that they would give people until Jan. 10 -- as opposed to Dec. 31 -- to pay their first month's premium and have coverage effective Jan. 1.
But many states running their own exchanges have their own deadlines for first payments. Some have more than one.
In Idaho, for instance, Blue Cross, Bridgespan and Select Health extended their deadline to Jan. 10. But PacificSource extended its deadline to Jan. 15. The deadlines in Washington, D.C., also depend on the insurer.
Other deadlines are earlier. California's and Rhode Island's is Jan. 6. Vermont's is Jan. 7.
The following states all have Jan. 10 deadlines: Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York.
The following states have Jan. 15 deadlines: Maryland, Oregon and Washington state.
Powers said the patchwork could create a real problem.
"There's a danger that people will misunderstand and think that their ... state or their exchange has extended it to Jan. 10 when in fact a lot of the state exchanges haven't done that," she said, urging those trying to get insurance to "get on top of it immediately."
After the first set of deadlines, would-be enrollees still have until the end of March to get insurance, after which the federal government will begin to fine those without coverage.
Still, the administration has carved out exemptions for certain people and businesses, including those whose plans were recently canceled. The insurance industry has raised concern about these changes, warning that they could disrupt the market.
The Affordable Care Act system needs to see millions more people -- including the young and healthy -- buy insurance in order to offset some of the cost to the industry of accepting sicker patients.
President Obama said at his end-of-year press conference that 1 million people have signed up through the federal and state exchanges, marking a significant uptick since the Oct. 1 launch. Officials, though, were originally projecting a goal of 7 million people by the end of March.