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Exchanged: NH's shrinking insurance choices

September 05. 2013 11:19PM

Here in New Hampshire, Obamacare continues to shrink the number of health care options — and it is not fully implemented yet.

This week Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield announced that the insurance plans it offers in New Hampshire's Obamacare "exchange" (the state-run "market" where the uninsured can shop for insurance) will cover treatment at only 14 of New Hampshire's 26 hospitals. Hospitals in Portsmouth, Concord and many other areas will not be included. And there will be no shopping for another carrier. Anthem is the only one approved to offer coverage in the exchange.

How did we come to this? The President and Democratic members of Congress (including 1st District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter) insisted that the exchanges would increase health insurance options. But the exchanges were designed to limit them. To get into an exchange, insurers must offer very specific levels of coverage at rates set by regulators. Last year state officials set the rates and coverage levels. Anthem was the only insurer that made the cut.

To trim costs, Anthem dropped a dozen New Hampshire hospitals from its list of covered providers. Such a measure might not be necessary if insurers were allowed to offer a wider variety of coverage options. But they are forbidden by law from offering high-deductible, limited-benefit plans through the exchanges. They have to offer much more costly low-deductible, high-benefit plans. Costs must be cut elsewhere. Anthem is cutting by limiting access to providers.

And if you want to know more about Anthem's plan, too bad. The state is forbidden from releasing any details. They are to remain secret until next year. So much for accountability, transparency, and "if you like your coverage, you can keep it." Those last words were spoken by Shea-Porter in 2010 in defense of her vote for Obamacare. She was wrong, as Granite Staters are learning.

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