Monday, December 23, 2013

Last-Minute Obamacare Shopping

Posted By on Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 9:07 AM

Those hoping to secure Obamacare insurance, effective Jan. 1, are doing some last-minute shopping today.

Americans have until the end of today to sign up for health insurance under President Barack Obama's signature legislation, as part of the first wave of coverage. Consumers can still sign up for 2014 open enrollment plans until March 31 without being assessed a penalty.

Only 365,000 people nationwide navigated the technically troubled marketplaces in October and November. On Dec. 20, Obama told reporters a million more had enrolled in the first weeks of December, but the totals still fall short of a 3.5 million-enrollee target for the private plans by the year's end.

The initial sign up date under the law for Jan. 1-effective coverage was Dec. 15, but after technical errors rendered HealthCare.gov mostly unusable in October, officials said they would delay the deadline by a week.

The administration has also urged health plans to delay consumers' deadlines for accepting payments. Last week, America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group, said its members would accept payments for coverage beginning Jan. 1 as late as Jan. 10. Typically, plans require payment before the first day of the month when coverage begins.

Meanwhile, Your Health Idaho—better known as the Idaho health insurance exchange—announced Dec. 20 that it was launching what it called "anonymous plan browsing." Simply put, the online feature allows Idahoans to browse through the marketplace without creating an account or entering their name or any other identifiable information.

"We've been hearing from people who want to browse without sharing too much information, and this does just that," said Amy Dowd, executive director of Your Health Idaho.

Additionally, Your Health Idaho announced that four of the health insurance companies that are selling plans in the marketplace—Blue Cross of Idaho, BridgeSpan, PacificSource and Select Health—have each announced that they are voluntarily extending payment deadlines. Initially, payments for coverage slated to begin Jan. 1, 2014, would have been due on Dec. 23. Blue Cross of Idaho, Bridgespan and Select Health each extended the deadline to Jan. 10, 2014, and PacificSource extended its deadline to Jan. 15, 2014.

"Every extra day to make the first payment goes a long way," said Dowd.

The payment changes only apply to health plans sold on Your Health Idaho.

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