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CareFirst allowing customers to delay health insurance premiums due to coronavirus

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield said Friday that it would allow customers facing economic hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic to request a deferral of their health insurance premium payments for up to two months.

Premiums would be repaid through scheduled payments with no interest or penalties, under the program, which begins next week.

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Officials from CareFirst, the state’s dominant insurer, said the move was a response to the coronavirus’ widespread disruption and people’s loss of income in the region.

“We recognize that many individuals and businesses of all sizes throughout the region are struggling financially in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, and may face financial difficulty in paying their premiums,” said Brian D. Pieninck, CareFirst president and CEO, in a statement. “These are unprecedented times, and we all need to react with equal parts empathy and creativity. By offering a premium deferral option, we hope to help our customers maintain some peace of mind with respect to their healthcare coverage while we work together as a community to manage more pressing challenges in our lives.”

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CareFirst previously made other changes related to the virus including offering testing at no cost and allowing customers to buy extra doses of medications. It also is participating in a special enrollment period for individual buyers on the state’s health exchange, created for those who do not have workplace insurance.

Also Friday, CareFirst said it would allow licensed nurses and behavioral health workers it employs to volunteer their time in health care facilities. The company said this was in response to the need for additional health care workers.

CareFirst already pledged $2 million to nonprofit organization providing coronavirus related relief in the community.

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