Connecticut enrollment delays highlight Obamacare problem: people not paying their premiums could burden taxpayers

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Enrollment delays plague Obamacare customers in Connecticut, where only about eight percent of new enrollees paid their premiums on time.

With the federal government set to bail out the majority of insurance companies’ Obamacare-related costs and losses in 2014, people who don’t pay their premiums could effectively burden taxpayers.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, which serves the state’s customers on the Connecticut Obamacare exchange Access Health CT, extended the deadline for people to pay their premiums until the end of January for plans that started January 1. The company has had trouble processing applications, sending out billing information, and processing people’s credit card and check payments.

“We understand that you may be experiencing delays in receiving your billing and enrollment materials for the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plan you selected through Access Health CT. We also know that you are experiencing long wait times with Anthem’s call centers.  We thank you for selecting Anthem and apologize for your inconvenience as we continue to work to process all January applications,” according to an Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Connecticut service update.

The Connecticut Insurance Department also posted an online notification informing customers that “Anthem is: Extending deadline for premium payment to Jan. 31, with coverage retroactive to January 1” and “Providing a dedicated e-mail address for Connecticut customers experiencing problems with the phone system or Web site – e-mail address pending.”

As of January 3, only eight percent of new Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield enrollees had successfully paid their first premiums, according to Access Health CEO Kevin Counihan. That figure also includes Anthem customers who bought new plans for 2014 off the Obamacare exchanges, and suffers too from the insurance company’s payment processing problems.

Nationally, only approximately 60 percent of new Obamacare enrollees have paid their first premiums, according to many insurance plans.

The federal government is slated to bail out insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield for many of their Obamacare-related costs and losses, which will only get worse if people don’t pay their premiums or if those payments are not properly processed.

Obamacare mandates a 90-day “grace period” that prohibits insurers from cutting people’s coverage off for unpaid premiums until three months have passed. Insiders have pointed out that people could easily get medical treatment during the grace period and then cancel their plans before having to pay, which would create added losses for insurers.

Obamacare is expected to steer more than $1 trillion to health insurance companies over a decade as part of the bailout feature built into the health reform law.

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Patrick Howley