The largest publicly run health plan in the nation, L.A. Care, will allow customers who do not have traditional bank accounts to pay their health insurance premiums with cash.
One in four Americans who were previously uninsured and eligible for federal insurance subsidies don’t have a bank account, relying instead on prepaid debit cards, money orders and cash to pay bills, according to a study by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.
After advocates for low-income consumers raised concerns to the Department of Health and Human Services over how so-called unbanked households would pay their monthly insurance premiums, the Obama administration ordered health plans to accept payment methods that didn’t require a credit card or checking account.
Starting this week, customers of L.A. Care Covered, one of the health plans for sale on Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace, can pay monthly premiums in cash at more than 680 locations, including 7-Eleven and Family Dollar stores. At the register, customers scan a bar code sent to their smartphone and hand over their cash. The payment posts to L.A. Care within 24 hours, and the service is free to customers.
“It’s as quick as buying a Slurpee,” said Danny Shader, the founder and CEO of PayNearMe, the for-profit company that established the electronic cash transaction network.
L.A. Care, like most health insurers around the country, pays fees to Visa, MasterCard and banks to process debit and credit card transactions. Laura Jaramillo, director of commercial and group plan operations at L.A. Care, said the health plan negotiated a similar surcharge to PayNearMe for cash payments.
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