High-Risk Insurance Pools Launch with Disappointing Results
Although officially the federal government began offering programs aimed at providing affordable health insurance coverage for uninsured people with pre-existing conditions on July 1st, some states are just now beginning to get their self-run programs off the ground. And so far, the results have been disappointing.
Out of 4 Million Potential Customers for High Risk Insurance Pools, Only 3600 Have Applied
According to Kaiser Health News, about 3600 people have applied and about 1200 have been approved so far in state plans. The Congressional Budget Office had estimated that as many as 4 million uninsured Americans would be eligible and 200,000 would be enrolled by 2013.
Officials say that the new plans, although a better deal than anything comparable on the private market, may still be unaffordable to many people. Premiums vary from plan to plan and are affected by factors such as age, geographic location, and whether or not the participant smokes.
Eligibility requirements may also be another possible barrier. Applicants must have been uninsured for at least six months and have a pre-existing health condition for which they have been rejected for coverage by a private insurer.
In New Jersey, just two people have signed up for the NJ Protect plan. Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield spokesman Tom Vincz told FoxNews that he expects more people will enroll in the coming weeks. More than 600 applications were downloaded and 268 information kits have been sent out since the program launched on August 1st.
In North Carolina, only 314 people have applied and 158 have been approved, according to Michael Keough, executive director of the North Carolina Health Insurance Risk Pool, which started on July 1st. “It’s early,” he said, “but thus far interest in the program is lower than we expected.”
Colorado’s program, called GettingUSCovered, has received only 204 applications. “It’s a very low number, given that there are hundreds of thousands of uninsured in the state,” said executive director Suzanne Bragg-Gamble.
Pennsylvania has reported a better response than most. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, nearly 1,000 state residents applied for coverage when the plan launched this week.
It may just be too soon to tell if the program will take off. Some states have not yet launched their high-risk insurance pools. Most should be effective by September 1, according to Kaiser Health News. Also, there may be a problem with lack of publicity. HHS is trying to get the word out, according to spokeswoman Jessica Santillo. The agency is working with states, consumer groups, insurance companies and others to reach uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions who may be eligible, she says.