COVID-19: BCBS companies help members stay insured, afford coverage

Published April 24, 2020

Helping to create affordable coverage. For the Health of America.

As Americans continue losing jobs and health insurance in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, many are faced with a stark reality: they no longer have employer-sponsored health benefits, or cannot afford to pay their premiums while they are stuck indoors.

By extending premium payment deadlines and creating special enrollment periods, Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are broadening access to affordable care—now needed more than ever.

Premium Payment Solutions

  • For members and employers experiencing economic hardship, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) is affording financial flexibility. Customers can request a premium deferral of up to two months, with bills carried forward with no interest or penalty. This helps ease financial fears during this uncertain time and ensures continuity of care during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • To assist customers in paying their premiums, beginning March 24, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) began allowing members 62 days to pay their premiums, for all members with individual plans or small employer coverage (< 50 employees). To support larger businesses (> 50 employees), BCBSND representatives will work on a case-by-case basis to determine alternative payment plans.
  • For customers unable to pay premiums as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, who would otherwise have been subject to termination of coverage, Florida Blue    has implemented an extended grace period through May 31. The grace period applies to Affordable Care Act, Medicare supplement, and other individual health plan members, as well as most of its employer health plans. Florida Blue    will also continue its policy of delaying disenrollment from its Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plans for premium delinquency.
  • Working with individuals and businesses suffering economic disruption, Wellmark BCBS will allow individual and small business customers to request a 60-day grace period when making premium payments for due dates between March 17 and June 30, in order to maintain their coverage. They will work with any mid-size or large employers on a personalized, case-by-case basis.
  • To ease some of the financial burden on many employers around insurance premiums, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas is extending their payment grace period from 10 days to 30 days. For a limited time, they are also accepting credit card payments for employer health and dental premiums.

Special Enrollment Periods

  • For members who are having difficulty paying their monthly premiums, Blue Shield of California (BSCA) is offering a special enrollment period through June 30 for small, large employer and Medicare Advantage plans. To provide coverage flexibility for members whose circumstances may have changed, BSCA will allow members and employers to downgrade plans.
  • A special enrollment period for employer customers is available to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois employers. Employees of employer-sponsored health plans who did not opt in for coverage during the regular enrollment period may have an opportunity to get coverage for their health care needs.
  • For eligible employees and their dependents that previously declined coverage and now would like to enroll, or currently enrolled employees who wish to add an eligible spouse or dependent to their existing coverage, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas is offering an optional special enrollment period.
  • As businesses around the country are forced to reduce hours or lay off employees, BCBSND is allowing greater flexibility in its eligibility requirements. As long as premiums are paid, BCBSND will work with employers to keep employees on their health plan, even when their hours fall below current eligibility guidelines. BCBSND will also allow employers to remove or reduce current probationary periods for new employees, thereby allowing new employees access to their health plan sooner.
  • To allow uninsured employees, as well as their spouses and/or dependents, an opportunity to get coverage without the need for a qualified life event, CareFirst is facilitating a special enrollment period for fully insured employer customers through June 15, 2020. CareFirst is also relaxing the requirement that employees be actively working to remain on the plan during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans.