(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Responding to a recent nudge from the White House, health insurers are moving back their deadline for accepting premium payments for plans under the Affordable Care Act. America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) announced Wednesday that plans would accept payment through Jan. 10 for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Here's its statement:

To provide greater peace of mind for consumers purchasing coverage through the new federal and state marketplaces, America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) Board of Directors today announced that health plans are voluntarily extending the deadline for consumers to pay their first month’s premium. Consumers who select their plans by December 23 and pay their premiums by January 10 will be able to have coverage effective January 1.

Under current rules and guidance, consumers who want to begin coverage on January 1 must select a plan by December 23 and pay the first month’s premium by December 31. The short time period in which to complete these steps, particularly around the holidays, combined with the ongoing technical issues with healthcare.gov have raised concerns that some consumers’ coverage may not be able to begin on January 1.

Health plans across the country are voluntarily giving individual market enrollees who select a plan by December 23 more time to pay their first month’s premium. Consumers must still pay their first month’s premium before coverage takes effect, but those who pay their premium by January 10 will now be able to have coverage retroactive to January 1.

“Our community is taking an important step to give consumers greater peace of mind about their health care coverage,” said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni.

Health plans are voluntarily making this one-time change to the payment deadline to help protect consumers from potential gaps in their coverage caused by the ongoing technical problems with healthcare.gov. Significant progress has been made in recent weeks to improve the enrollment process for consumers, but more work needs to be done to resolve the back-end challenges, particularly those related to processing enrollment files, to ensure all consumers who selected a plan are enrolled in coverage.

This effort also will help to reduce potential consumer confusion in the marketplace. 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. Consumers should check with the plan they have selected for more details about their specific coverage policy.

The deadline for enrolling in a plan by Dec. 23 still stands, meaning that shoppers need to select which health insurer they want by next Monday.