Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield's offices in Wallingford. file photo

People who sign up for health plans through state insurance exchanges by Dec. 23 will have until Jan. 10 to make their first premium payment and receive coverage effective Jan. 1, the insurance industry announced Wednesday.

Previously, federal officials had announced that people would have to make their first payment by Dec. 31 to be assured of getting coverage that takes effect on the first of the month. But they said that individual insurers could give people more time. In Connecticut, the three insurers offering plans to individuals on the state’s exchange had agreed to accept payments until Jan. 7.

In announcing that insurers were voluntarily extending the deadline until Jan. 10, the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans said that the move was intended to reduce potential consumer confusion and help people avoid potential gaps in coverage caused by problems with, the federal site used by exchanges in 36 states. Connecticut’s exchange, called Access Health CT, does not use

“While states have the flexibility to impose different deadlines, consumers all across the country will have more time to pay their first month’s premium, which is necessary for coverage to begin,” the group said in a statement. “Consumers should check with the plan they have selected for more details about their specific coverage policy.”

In Connecticut, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has extended its payment deadline to Jan. 10, so people who submit their premiums by that date will have coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, spokeswoman Sarah Yeager said. ConnectiCare representatives also said the company would extend its deadline. HealthyCT, the third carrier selling plans to individuals on the state’s exchange, did not have an immediate answer about its payment deadline Wednesday afternoon.

The extended payment deadline applies only to people who sign up for insurance through exchanges by Dec. 23. Exchanges will continue selling insurance through March 31, but coverage sold after Dec. 23 won’t take effect by Jan. 1.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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