Montana insurers extend signup deadline for 'Obamacare'

2013-12-19T19:07:00Z 2014-10-03T14:29:04Z Montana insurers extend signup deadline for 'Obamacare' missoulian.com

HELENA – As the deadline approaches for consumers to get health coverage through the “Obamacare” online marketplace in Montana, insurers here say they’re giving customers until mid-January to make their first payment.

“We’re getting so many calls and so many people signing up at the last minute, that’s the least we can do to accommodate those people,” said Jerry Dworak, CEO of the Montana Health Co-op, one of three insurers selling polices on the marketplace.

The deadline is Monday for consumers to buy policies for coverage that starts Jan. 1, and customers are expected to pay their first premium before they can be ensured of having coverage.

Yet the Co-op and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana said this week they’ll give people until Jan. 10 to pay their first premium, but still make the coverage retroactive to Jan. 1.

PacificSource, the third company selling policies on the marketplace in Montana, will be giving customers until Jan. 15 to settle their first payment, said Todd Lovshin, Montana manager for the Oregon-based company.

“We’re creating some flexibility in our processes so people can get on board, get their policy and give them some breathing room,” he said.

The extended payment deadlines come as thousands of Montanans attempt to use the federally run website healthcare.gov to sign up for individual health insurance policies – and as the website, while improved, continues to have technical problems.

Insurers say they’re not always getting complete data on customers who’ve signed up for coverage, and state officials and consumer counselors, or “navigators,” say other problems persist.

For example, some consumers who signed up for a marketplace account soon after it launched Oct. 1 may still be stuck in a technological “black hole” and need additional help to complete the process, said Adam Schafer, deputy insurance commissioner for Montana.

“We are hearing reports that the marketplace is getting better,” he said. “But the big concern is that is becomes a functioning website that people have confidence in.”

Schafer said if consumers believe they’ve successfully signed up for a policy through the marketplace, but haven’t received confirmation from the company within a few days, they should call the company to make sure their application is being processed.

All of the insurers said if people have any doubts about a policy they bought on the marketplace, they should check directly with the company.

“We will do everything in our power to assist our (customers) through the transition,” said John Doran, director of strategic marketing services for Blue Cross.

Lovshin said data that PacificSource is getting from the marketplace are getting “better and better,” and that the company is in constant communication with the federal government to reconcile the information. “We’re finding very few discrepancies,” he said.

Still, Dworak said the Co-op is getting many calls from people who’ve said they signed up for a policy through the marketplace, but their records have not yet arrived via the marketplace. He counseled consumers to have patience with the system.

“It’s exactly what we thought: Everyone waiting until the last minute (to sign up), which creates a bottleneck,” he said. “Our job is to try to get them insured.”

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or by email at mike.dennison@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick