World and Nation

One in five insured under new health law did not pay on time

WASHINGTON — One in 5 people who signed up for health insurance under the new health care law failed to pay their premiums on time and therefore did not receive coverage in January, insurance companies and industry experts say.

Paying the first month’s premium is the final step in completing an enrollment. Under federal rules, people must pay the initial premium to have coverage take effect.

In view of the chaotic debut of the federal marketplace and many state exchanges, the White House urged insurers to give people more time, and many agreed to do so. But, insurers said, some people missed even the extended deadlines.

Lindy Wagner, a spokeswoman for Blue Shield of California, said that 80 percent of the people who signed up for its plans had paid by the company’s due date, Jan. 15. Blue Shield has about 30 percent of the exchange market in the state.

Matthew N. Wiggin, a spokesman for Aetna, said that about 70 percent of people who signed up for its health plans paid their premiums. For Aetna policies taking effect Jan. 1, the deadline for payment was Jan. 14, and for products sold by Coventry Health Care, which is now part of Aetna, the deadline was Jan. 17. Mark T. Bertolini, the chief executive of Aetna, said last week that the company had 135,000 “paid members,” out of 200,000 who began to enroll through the exchanges.

“I think people are enrolling in multiple places,” Bertolini said in a conference call with securities analysts. “They are shopping. And what happens is that they never really get back on to disenroll from plans they prior enrolled in.”

Kristin E. Binns, a vice president of WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest insurers, said that 76 percent of people selecting its health plans on an exchange had paid their share of the first month’s premium by the due date of Jan. 31.

Binns said the company had received more than 500,000 applications for individual coverage through the exchanges in 14 states.

Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal exchange and supervises state marketplaces, said the government did not know how many people had paid their premiums and thus “effectuated” coverage. But in interviews and in the quarterly reports on their financial performance, insurers provided data indicating that four-fifths of applicants had met payment deadlines.

One big company, Humana, said it had received 200,000 applications for insurance through the exchanges.

“About 75 percent of the people paid, and 25 percent did not pay,” said Thomas T. Noland Jr., a senior vice president of Humana. Customers had until Jan. 31 to pay for coverage that took effect on Jan. 1.

Greg Thompson, a spokesman for the Health Care Service Corp., which offers Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas and three other states, said that “around 80 percent” of people choosing those plans had paid their first month’s premium by the Jan. 30 due date.