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It's time to pay your health insurance premium

I’ve been helping a friend who slipped on the ice last weekend and broke her hip. One of the first things I found out was that although she had enrolled in a new insurance plan through HealthCare.gov for coverage effective Jan. 1., she hadn’t yet paid the first month’s premium, due Jan. 10—and at that point she was in no condition to take care of that chore herself.

So getting it done was my top priority, because she’ll be facing a bill well into five figures for the ambulance, the emergency room, the emergency hip replacement surgery, three nights in the hospital, and a short stay in inpatient rehab (all of which, by the way, are essential health benefits that all health plans must now cover).

If there’s a better illustration of (a) the importance of having insurance to protect against unforeseen accidents  and (b) paying attention to billing dates, I don’t know what it would be.

So, to those of you who enrolled in coverage effective Jan. 1, if you haven’t already paid your first month’s bill, do it immediately. All plans sold through Healthcare.gov must accept payments for the January premium through Jan. 10. If you haven’t gotten a bill yet, call your chosen insurance company and ask why.  Do NOT call the state Health Insurance Marketplace from which you obtained the plan. Billing is strictly a matter between you and your insurer.

Some big insurers, most notably WellPoint and Health Care Service Corp., which run many Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans across the country, and Kaiser Permanente, the giant HMO, have further extended their payment deadline to Jan. 15. If you’re not sure when your deadline is, call the insurance company and ask.

But don’t push your luck. Pay as soon as you can. My friend’s insurer was happy to accept payment online via a credit card, so now she can concentrate on her recovery without worrying about how to pay for it.

Got a question for our health insurance expert? Ask it here; be sure to include the state you live in. And if you can't get enough health insurance news here, follow me on Twitter @NancyMetcalf.

We are blogging regularly about the new health care law, which took full effect on Jan. 1, 2014.  (Read the previous posts in the series.) To get health insurance advice tailored to your situation, use our Health Law Helper, below.

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