One-Month Extension Announced for High-Risk Insurance Plan

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from The New York Times,

With many people still stymied in their efforts to buy insurance under the new health care law, the Obama administration moved on Thursday to give them more time to sign up and pay premiums, and it extended an expiring program for people with cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses.

The administration strongly encouraged insurance companies to let new subscribers go outside their networks of doctors and hospitals and refill prescriptions for drugs not on their lists of approved medications.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said these steps would ensure that consumers have “a smooth transition without any gaps in coverage.”

The steps are intended to reduce problems widely expected to occur next month. Hundreds of thousands of people may gain coverage, some for the first time. But insurers say they have no record of many who believe they have enrolled, so some consumers may be disappointed when they seek care next month at doctors’ offices, clinics and drugstores.

Such disappointment could create huge political problems for the White House, just as President Obama is trying to highlight the benefits of the new health care law.

The White House originally required people to sign up by Dec. 15 for coverage beginning in January, when major provisions of the new law take effect. On Nov. 22, the administration gave consumers eight more days, until Dec. 23, to sign up for such coverage.

Ms. Sebelius went further on Thursday, urging insurers to provide “retroactive coverage for people who sign up after Jan. 1.”In addition, the Obama administration said it was “giving consumers more time to make their first premium payments.” In general, to be sure of coverage starting in January, consumers are supposed to pay their share of the first month’s premium by Dec. 31.

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