Billing problems plague insurers

Tools

Many of the technical glitches plaguing the health insurance exchanges have been resolved, but insurers are dealing with their own technical and administrative problems. Plus, they're facing an increasingly frustrated public complaining that insurers can't confirm coverage, aren't providing adequate customer service, and haven't issued identification numbers needed to cover medical services.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Connecticut, for example, is having trouble with its enrollment system, recording only 8 percent of new members that began receiving coverage Jan. 1 as having paid their premiums. Kevin Counihan, CEO of the state's exchange, Access Health CT, said the insurer admitted to having "administrative challenges," reported the Connecticut Mirror.

Some of Anthem's newest members who enrolled through the exchange have tried paying their bills, but Anthem isn't cashing their checks or charging their credit cards. Consumers also have complained about long waits to speak with customer service.

Meanwhile, Blue Shield of California is drawing criticism for poor customer service, including long wait times to speak with a representative. Some new members haven't received identification numbers, so they're being denied coverage of services and forced to pay out of pocket, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Blue Shield apologized on its Facebook page for its "unacceptable" performance. "While we anticipated and planned for increased traffic, the sheer volume of enrollments has swamped all major health plans," it said.

And other insurers say they're struggling to get new members to pay premiums, most of which were due by Friday. Many have received premium payments from fewer than half of their new members.

"It's been pulling teeth," Shaun Greene, chief operating officer of Utah-based Arches Health Plan, told the Wall Street Journal. Arches, which had collected about 60 percent of premiums for its members starting coverage Jan. 1, plans to urge the remaining members through email and phone calls to pay their premiums.

A spokesman with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it's working with insurance companies "to ensure that consumers know the next steps to take to make sure their coverage takes effect, including paying their first month's premium, and to make sure consumers have as much time as possible to make their first payment," the WSJ noted.

To learn more:
- read the Connecticut Mirror article
- see the Los Angeles Times article
- check out the Wall Street Journal article

Related Articles:
ACA grace period could leave insurers with unpaid premiums
Insurers volunteer to delay payment deadline to Jan. 10
Insurers don't want charities paying for consumers
Need-to-be-insured deadline extended
Coverage expansions, new deadlines mark race to ACA enrollment