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August 01. 2013 8:34PM

Anthem lone NH qualifier for health exchange

CONCORD — The state Insurance Department sent its recommended health insurance plans to be offered on the state's exchange to federal officials Wednesday.

Only one company has been qualified by the state to participate in the federally operated exchange — Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield — although the company will offer more than one plan to individuals and small businesses who participate in the web-based marketplace.

Exchanges are one of the key components of the Affordable Care Act and begin operating Oct. 1, although plans will not be effective until Jan. 1.

Individuals and small businesses will be able to buy health insurance on the exchange and will be able to determine if they qualify for federal subsidies to lower the cost of premiums.

The state and federal government have agreed to work together on the exchanges after lawmakers last year prohibited the state from operating its own exchange.

Under the partnership, the state Insurance Department will review rates, forms and benefits for plans offered on the exchange, but the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services will make the final decision on offerings and operate the electronic marketplace.

The federal agency will release plan rates and details by Oct. 1 when the electronic marketplace opens.

The Insurance Department will continue oversight of insurers and assist state consumers with issues after insurance coverage begins Jan. 1.

"While we cannot make rates or plan details public at this time, we are encouraged by the filings that were made, and we are confident that New Hampshire consumers will have good options for coverage through the Marketplace when it opens in October," said Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny.

The plans are expected to offer varying degrees of coverage with varying prices. The plans must have at least the same benefits offered under Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance plan for the poor and disabled.

Last year a legislative committee adopted the Matthew Thornton Blue health insurance coverage as the minimum benefit package or "essential health benefits" all companies participating in the state's health insurance exchange must offer.

The plans are expected to follow a system similar to the Children's Health Insurance Program, which offered Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze coverage based on what percentage of a person's medical bill the insurer pays. For example, the insurer carrier pays 90 percent of the cost under the Platinum plan and 60 percent of the cost for the Bronze plan.

Premiums would be highest for Platinum coverage and lowest for Bronze.

grayno@unionleader.com


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