Mandated by most states, a grace period for paying premiums is generally extended to life, disability and medical insurance policy owners. Typically the policy will remain in force if the premium payment is received within, for instance, 15 or 31 days after the premium date.
However, whether you need extra time to pay because of cash flow problems or you simply have let the deadline slip through administrative laxity, be careful with grace periods. Before you think it's okay to send your premium in "just a little bit late," consider a recent case:
The medical insurance premium due date was January 1st. The insured person required hospitalization on January 3rd. The hospital phoned the insurer to verify coverage. The insurance company refused to guarantee reimbursement to the hospital because the premium had not been paid. The hospital then refused admission and a physical health problem became suffused with a financial crises.
Fortunately in this case, a friend of the insured person could and did hand-carry a cashier's check for the premium to the insurance company which then approved payment for the hospitalization (in this case, resulting in a one-day delay of admission). However, given the nature of both insurance company and hospital administrative systems, it is not hard to imagine that the shepherding of such a payment and notification thereof could cause a delay of a week or more right at the very time your health situation demands immediate care.
Do not play with the grace period -- you could be gambling with your very survival. In general, you should mail your premium check about ten days in advance of the due date to allow time for post office and insurance company processing. Establish a back-up person in case you become hospitalized or unable to handle your affairs. He or she can see to it your mail is opened and bills are paid on time.
Ray Babin was a Customer Service Analyst with Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.