Health insurance coverage extended for those in high-risk pools
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday that coverage will be extended for the tens of thousands of people enrolled in high-risk insurance pools due to a history of serious illness and disease.
Created under Obamacare, the high-risk pools will give those who are enrolled in them until March 31, 2014, which is just a little over two months before that coverage will be lost.
At the end of last December, the Obama administration announced that it was extending its Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, also known as PCIP. PCIP had been previously scheduled to close at the end of last month.
However, that deadline has since been extended until the end of January because of the disastrous launch of the online marketplaces, which debuted Oct. 1 and suffered a series of problems for a couple months afterward.
Accordingly, these extended deadlines will allow folks additional time to sign up for an insurance plan, either through the federal website at HealthCare.gov, or through state-run insurance enrollment websites.
The federal high-risk pools were created in 2010 in an effort to help those who have pre-existing conditions get health insurance that was more often than not denied by commercial insurance companies in the past.
Although open enrollment for Obamacare ends March 31, the HHS says that people enrolled in the high-risk pools have only until March 15 to pick a plan to avoid any gap in coverage.
To date, enrollment numbers – including federal and state PCIP programs – are currently less than 30,000. That’s way down from what it was in October, when the number was 85,000.
The government is therefore hoping that extending the deadlines for signing up will help to increase the number of people who sign up on the federal and state-run health insurance websites, which has previously been so riddled with problems that many Americans gave up trying to get online so they could shop for a plan at the online marketplaces, also referred to as exchanges.
Even though the PCIP program was scheduled to end on Dec. 31, under the health law that started Jan. 1, health insurance companies are prohibited from turning people down or increasing the cost of plans just because someone has a pre-existing condition.
Consumer advocacy groups support the extended deadlines because so many of those in the high-risk pools are already being treated for diseases that require ongoing and regular care, such as cancer, heart conditions and diabetes.
Steve Weiss, senior director of communications/media advocacy for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said that the extension will make sure that those with pre-existing illnesses like cancer "have life-saving coverage under the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan through the end of open enrollment.”
Weiss added that the extension gives patients with cancer and other serious illnesses who never had any options in health coverage prior to enrollment in PCIP, more time to select an insurance plan for their own particular needs.
Over 135,000 Americans have been helped by PCIP since the federal program was created at the end of 2010.