State

Blue Cross extends payment deadline to Jan. 30

CHICAGO – People who signed up recently for health insurance with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois now have until Jan. 30 to pay their first month's premium and still get coverage for all of January.

It's the latest in a confusing series of deadline extensions for people buying insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law. Most health insurers had already moved the original New Year's Eve payment deadline to Jan. 10 to give people more time after delays caused by glitch-prone state and federal insurance shopping websites.

Blue Cross, which has the most customers in the Illinois individual market, announced the new cutoff date Wednesday. Land of Lincoln Health spokeswoman Alexandra Normington said that insurance company's payment deadline was still Jan. 10 for January coverage.

It was not immediately clear if other insurance carriers in Illinois would also extend their deadlines.

Blue Cross customers have been paying in significant numbers, Greg Thompson, a spokesman for Health Care Service Corporation, the operator of Blue Cross plans in Illinois and four other states, said in an email. But the company wanted to provide new customers peace of mind with the extension, he said.

"At a time when many people are learning about new products and responsibilities of being a new policy holder, we wanted to give people additional time in January to plan and budget for potentially new household expenses," Thompson said.

Blue Cross customers must pay their first month's premium before coverage begins, but claims for services received between Jan. 1 and when the first payment is received will be processed retroactively.

The extension applies to customers with Jan. 1 effective dates regardless of whether they bought a Blue Cross plan on the new insurance marketplace or directly from the insurance company.

Consumers have until the end of March to choose a health plan and avoid the health law's tax penalties.

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