Short Takes On News & Events

Marketplace Shoppers Must Pay 1st Premium By Dec. 15

By Phil Galewitz

September 30th, 2013, 5:56 PM

Correction: An earlier version of this item misstated the forms of payment insurers are required to accept for plans sold on insurance marketplaces. The only required forms of payment are personal checks, electronic fund transfers, prepaid debit cards, cashier’s checks and money orders. Insurers may also opt to accept other forms of payment, such as credit cards.

When consumers start shopping for coverage through new federally run health insurance exchanges on Tuesday, they will be asked dozens of questions before they are shown what health plans are available and how much they cost.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Then, to finalize their enrollment, they must contact the private insurer and pay their first monthly premium.

If enrollees don’t pay their insurer by Dec. 15, they will not have coverage that takes effect Jan. 1, federal health officials said Monday.  If they miss that first deadline, however, open enrollment runs through March 2014.

The disclosure that consumers will need to contact and pay insurers before their coverage can go into effect came as federal health officials for the first time  showed off the online exchange process at  The system is slated to go live at 8 a.m. ET Tuesday.

The federal government is running the online marketplaces in 34 states; Sixteen  have built their own systems, which may be set up differently, using federal money from the Affordable Care Act.

On the federal website, consumers have to fill in their name, age, email address, ZIP code, estimated 2014 income and then answer questions about other household members and whether they file taxes jointly or individually, if they smoke regularly or have recently moved or changed jobs. The federal officials spent nearly 35 minutes showing how the process would work for a family of three looking for coverage.

While the exchange process may appear burdensome, it is common for people today buying insurance to have to compete a lengthy applications including providing a detailed medical history. They no longer have to provide any health information.

Sarah Lueck, a policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the key point for consumers to remember is that once they have selected and enrolled in a plan, they may have only a short period to pay the insurer.

The law requires insurers to accept personal checks, electronic fund transfers, prepaid debit cards, cashier’s checks and money orders, she said.

“Be aware there is a deadline, and if you miss it, there could be situations where your coverage is affected,” Lueck said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that regardless of whether the federal government is shut down as a result of Congress’ budget impasse, the new exchanges will open. However, in a briefing with reporters, she acknowledged there will be additional glitches in coming weeks and months. Already, the Spanish version of the website and the exchange for small employers have been delayed several weeks.

“We know opponents are desperate for anything that could go wrong,” Sebelius said, noting that she hoped the public would give the administration time to work out the kinks the same way it does when Apple has to upgrade its software. She also pleaded with reporters not to make final judgments on the exchanges after one week.

“We are on the eve of history, and I’m very excited,” she said.

Sebelius said the administration will ramp up its promotional efforts starting Tuesday, including using celebrity pitchmen, social media and traditional television advertising.

Singer Katy Perry is one celebrity in the campaign, but federal health officials declined to disclose others.

Sebelius said it is not surprising the public is confused about the health law and unaware of many of its benefits, because political opponents have spent $400 million on negative ads compared to $75 million in ads supporting the law.

11 Responses to “Marketplace Shoppers Must Pay 1st Premium By Dec. 15”

  1. Linda Mendel says:

    I question Ms. Lueck’s statement that insurers must accept credit cards. 156.1240(a)(2) lists paper checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, EFT, and general-purpose pre-paid debit cards – but not credit cards.

  2. L. H. says:

    The article says you no longer need to provide health information but asks if you smoke. I imagine smoking will make your premium increase drastically.

  3. Steve says:

    I smoke! I like to smoke! I encourage my family to smoke! Nobody has the right to tell me that I can’t smoke. Smoking is healthy! Ask any Texas Republican and they will tell you that smoking has nothing to do with health. That’s a myth! I am a tobacco farmer in Texas. Texans smoke! Most Texas legislators smoke! I think the governor smokes! Tobacco grows wild in Texas. You can find tobacco growing in you back yard if you live in Texas. If anybody thinks that I must pay more for health insurance, just because I smoke, they had better think again! I expect the Texas legislature to protect my right to smoke, or chew, or use snuff. It is my right and it has nothing to do with how much I pay for my health insurance. Tobacco is a naturally occurring product and it is good for your health… and that’s just how it is!

  4. Roger Rabbid says:

    You’re right about tobacco. Just ask all the lung cancer patients and dead people who smoked.

  5. Jody says:

    TO: The Texas YOYO who wrote ….”Smoking is good
    For you”
    If you are going to argue … Then pick another
    Subject… Smoking IS BAD FOR YOU,
    Many in my family are now PREMATURELY DEAD
    from smoking and the rest if us who did not smoke,
    ie… ME , have serious lung / breathing problems
    From breathing in the other family members smoke
    For most of our lives !
    “IT’s A FREE COUNTRY” … Saying goes right out the door when
    Innocent people are harmed by the irresponsible acts
    Of others!!!!
    End if Story !!!
    I hope you’re TAXED UP THE WAZZOO !!!

  6. Ernie says:

    Thanks, Jody!

    This “Texan” does not accept the truth. Tobacco may grow wild and naturally in Texas, but so does other poisons. A Rattle Snake is natural and yet one bite will more than likely kill you.
    His argument is like a drunk driver saying “my drinking does not kill, it was the car that I drove over the kid, that kill the person.”
    Higher premiums or greater portion of the costs should be paid by people that choose to do high risk activities that cause healthcare costs to go up…. Drunk driving, driving a motorcycle without a helmet, participating in highrisk sports or other activities(smoking, over eating, sex with mutliple partners or strangers, recreational drug and over medicated drug use, etc)…
    Where will the Gov’t stop? How much of our lives do they want to control? Next it will be how many children we have or whether or not we have to have a background check just to get married or co-habitate, etc….

  7. Scott says:

    You might be want to look up “adverse Selection”…its kinda sad that 90% of the citizens of this country does not understand how insurance works… oh they think they know how it should work, or how they wish it worked, but reality is very different…have you found the fine print yet in regard to the affordable care act out of pocket family deductible amounts yet?? No wonder the IRS and the ACA need access to your checkbook and bank information…

  8. Dru says:

    Ah hello first you have this wrong who cares about the smoker. second this will not work unless you have a email address and you must have a email address to leave a comment with your mailing address. the laws under this affordable health care states that the government will do home inspections anytime they want and will remove children the government thinks is not getting proper health care at home and if children are home schooled they will be removed and put in public school for social interacting and if a anyone young or old needs special health care for special needs they will be removed and put in a suitable health facility.
    In other words the government can and will take anyone young or old and remove them to a considerations camp for their health. Will force government imposed medication on anyone they have in their control. Forced vaccinations and health shots on everyone regardless of what you want.
    Heil Obama

  9. VS says:

    My question…
    What keeps someone from falsifying their health information about smoking since there is no physical required to enroll?

    If someone lies and marks “non-smoking”; how does the government and/or insurance companies find out. If indicates on their application, “non-smoker”, receives ACA insurance and does not have yearly check ups that would detect them as smokers; then they finally succumb to lung cancer….does the insurance company come back and re-bill this person for all the years of falsifying their insurance …. or does the consumer wind up paying for this person’s lies?

    Or, does the government monitor their “purchasing” and find out they buy cigarettes?

  10. Jon says:

    They have your phone tapped, they listen; they look at your facebook, and if they have your bank account, they can trace your bank card the grocer you use, and because there is a detailed receipt, they can look it up……ahhhh isn’t technology grand.

  11. JA says:

    Couldn’t help but notice all the self-righteous indignation about the Texas smoker. It’s so funny that not a one of you said anything that has’t been spoon fed to you. People are still dying of lung cancer and they’ve never smoked and never been exposed to smoke. Probably for much the same reason as woman are dying of breast cancer and men of prostate cancer. On the other hand – the hypocrisy of medical pot can’t be ignored. Just as many chemicals but for those that enjoy pot and pot smoke – well – they have a medical condition.

    Everywhere I go now I see and hear the folks justifying their right to something they never earned by yelling at the fat person that causes the insurance rates to go up or the smoker or the drinker or whatever – anything to cover the fact that they are justifying stealing from their neighbors and if their neighbors happen to be smokers, drinkers, eater or choc-aholics – well they don’t deserve the benefits of their own labor but you all certainly do.

    the subject of the article was about paying your premium before your “free stuff” kicked in. People if that does not tell you that you can never steal enough to hide who and what you actually are – nothing will. “We’re gonna take care of poor and down trodden but only after they pay – because they can’t be trusted”. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.