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November 18. 2013 9:59PM

High-risk to keep coverage into 2014

CONCORD — Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny announced Monday that he will order the New Hampshire high-risk pool to remain open into 2014, citing uncertainties of whether risk-pool members will be available to enroll in the Obamacare insurance marketplace on time. (Related stories, Page A8.)

Sevigny said he will order the high-risk pool to remain open until guaranteed, subsidized coverage is available through the federal marketplace. As of late October, 2,746 New Hampshire residents purchased insurance in the pool.

“Many in the high-risk pool require medical care on an ongoing basis, and many have not yet found substitute coverage for next year. These people need to know for certain that they will have coverage in January of 2014, and cannot wait until the last minute to enroll through Healthcare.gov,” Sevigny said in a statement.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department cited technical difficulties with the Healthcare.gov website, which serves as New Hampshire’s health insurance marketplace.

In operation since 2003, the high-risk pool is a quasi-governmental entity run by the non-profit New Hampshire Health Plan.

It was scheduled to close on Dec. 31. On Monday, its website still reported it would be discontinued at year’s end. But Mike Degnan, executive director of the pool, said Monday the changes will be made to the website within 24 hours.

He anticipated the pool will operate for another three to six months. Rates and provider payments will remain the same if the pool continues for only that short amount of time, Degnan said.

The pool offers seven different benefit plans. The current monthly rate for a 45-year-old non-smoker who opts for a managed care plan with a $5,000 deductible is $401. That premium is up from $338 in January 2012. Pool members with low and moderate incomes are eligible for a federal subsidy of 10 percent.

Degnan said pool enrollment is down about 100 members, a decline he said could be for a number of reasons, including the Jan. 1 coverage date for insurance purchased on the exchange.

The Insurance Department said risk-pool members and their brokers are concerned they will not have coverage in 2014.

“The Legislature authorized me to order the extension of high-risk pool coverage if necessary, and given the operational problems with the federal marketplace, I believe it is prudent to do so,” Sevigny said. He expects to issue a final order later this week, after consultation with a health care oversight committee.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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