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March 24. 2014 1:26PM

Another carrier to offer health plans through Obamacare in NH

CONCORD — The likelihood that New Hampshire will have at least one more health insurance company offering plans on the state's Obamacare website next year was confirmed on Monday, as the New Hampshire Insurance Department issued a license to Minuteman Health.

The Massachusetts-based insurance cooperative plans to offer coverage through New Hampshire's federally operated Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015.

A member-governed, nonprofit health maintenance organization (HMO), Minuteman is the first health insurance co-op to be licensed in New Hampshire.

Any profits the company earns are reinvested or returned to members through expanded benefits or reduced premium rates, according to the Insurance Department. Members have the authority to elect the board of directors and to run for election to the board.

"We welcome Minuteman Health to New Hampshire," said Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. "We are pleased that marketplace customers are on track to have more choices in 2015 than they do today."

Anthem is the only insurer to offer plans on the New Hampshire version of healthcare.gov for coverage in 2014. The open enrollment period for coverage in 2014 ends on March 31. More than 20,000 New Hampshire residents have signed up for coverage as of last week, according to Sevigny.

Harvard Pilgrim has also announced that it intends to offer Marketplace plans in 2015. Sevigny told lawmakers in a joint House-Senate hearing recently that other carriers have begun discussions about joining the marketplace in the future.

"We believe that more competition will greatly benefit consumers in New Hampshire," he said.

Minuteman Health, which has operated on the Massachusetts exchange (mahealthconnector.org), received a $67 million loan from the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare services to expand into the New Hampshire market in 2015. The company is in the process of building its provider network in New Hampshire.

Through a partnership with the federal government, the Insurance Department reviews and recommends approval for the plans and networks that are offered on the marketplace. The department recently received approval from the state Legislature to accept a $2 million federal grant to help state regulators properly review the large number of plans expected to be filed in the months ahead.

Insurance companies will need to have their plans approved by state and federal officials in time for the 2015 open enrollment period. Marketplace plans must be filed with the department by May 1, and the department must make its formal plan recommendations to the federal marketplace by Aug. 7.

The Insurance Department is also moving ahead with plans to review its standards for network adequacy. The department has been criticized for approving Anthem's network for exchange policies, which excluded 10 of the state's 26 hospitals.

"We understand that there are concerns from citizens about how health insurance companies are able to choose providers within their networks," said Sevigny. "We plan to look carefully at our network adequacy standards in view of new legal requirements, changes in medical practice, and the need to encourage more competition in our health insurance markets. We are committed to engaging in this discussion in an open, transparent manner."

The department is creating a working group designed to revise the current definition of an "adequate network" for health insurance plans and is encouraging volunteers to apply.

An organizational meeting has been set for April 23 to launch the review.

After the working group has completed its analysis, plans call for a formal public hearing, an additional comment period, and approval though the state's legislative rules committee. Any resulting changes to the rules will become effective for health plans sold in 2016.

Anyone who wants to provide comments for consideration at the initial working group session has until April 16 to email Health Policy Analyst Tyler Brannen at Tyler.Brannen@ins.nh.gov.

Participants are asked to RSVP to the April 23 meeting by emailing Karen.Cassin@ins.nh.gov or calling 271-7973, ext. 234.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in the auditorium of the Brown Building, 129 Pleasant St., Concord. If a larger venue is required, a new location will be announced on the Insurance Department website, nh.gov/insurance, by April 21.


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