Breaking News: December 23 deadline extended

December 23, 2013

Consumers have another 24 hours to shop and sign up

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) quietly extended the already-extended December 23 deadline for signing up for insurance coverage by another 24 hours. Consumers who complete enrolment by midnight on Christmas Eve can now be ensured they will have coverage beginning January 1.

Health plans were anticipating a wave of last-minute shoppers.

For example, Blues plans extended call center hours and increased staff over the weekend leading up to December 23. Those with retail space have also staffed up their storefronts for walk-in traffic.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is encouraging consumers that do not qualify for subsidies to enroll directly on the plan’s site, “and avoid the long wait times on the phone. We also have more than 2,000 agents certified with CMS statewide to advise, assist and enroll consumers,” said Terry Burke, VP for individual business, in a statement.

In Connecticut, where the state-based exchange is riddled with technology issues, the CTMirror reports that 26,000 residents had incomplete applications. The exchange was expected to send them notifications to complete the process. Call centers for Access Health CT are experiencing 20-minute wait times.

Consumers who complete enrollment after December 24, will likely be covered beginning February 1. Generally, health plans are allowing continuity of care exceptions for new members who are in the process of treatment for a long-term illness or pregnancy.

Most of the successful enrollments nationwide have been followed by the insurers’ premium bill.

Insurers previously volunteered to allow members to submit their premium payment up until January 10 for their new plan, endorsed by America’s Health Insurance Plans. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has extended the cushion to January 15, and others might follow with a longer grace period.