KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

High-Risk Health Insurance Pools Opening Soon

News outlets examine how states are coping with covering hard-to-insure people, confusion about insuring young adults and a COBRA subsidy extension.

The New York Times: "The Obama administration is poised to award contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to about 20 states to run new insurance pools for people with serious medical problems. Applications will be available to the public in many states on Thursday, and coverage could start as early as August, said Richard A. Popper, deputy director of the new federal Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight."

"The temporary program for uninsured people with pre-existing conditions was supposed to be established within 90 days after President Obama signed the health care law - that is, by last Monday. Thirty states have informed the federal government that they want to run their own high-risk pools with federal money" (Pear, 6/25).

The Associated Press/MSNBC: "Illinois may be one of the first states to start providing health insurance in a new high-risk pool funded under national health overhaul, but enrollment will be limited, eligibility requirements tight and coverage may not begin until late summer. ... Illinois expects to receive nearly $200 million from the federal government to start covering people with medical problems who've been uninsured for at least six months. The state estimates that 4,000 to 6,000 people will be covered in the new program. Many more are expected to apply for coverage" (Johnson, 6/25).

Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Health coverage could be a step closer in Ohio for more than 5,000 people whose pre-existing medical conditions or diseases made insurance unavailable or highly unaffordable. ... The Ohio Department of Insurance announced Friday it has picked Medical Mutual of Ohio to run the temporary program, called a high-risk insurance pool. Assuming approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the program will start in August, a state insurance department spokeswoman said, and run until 2014, when broader federal health reforms kick in"  (Koff, 6/25).

10News (central Ohio): "Starting next week, Americans who need to find an affordable insurance plan will have some help. It's a government web-site that will link people with the kind of coverage that best fits them ... For those who want to buy coverage, it is not always easy." 

Cathy Levine, executive director of UHCAN, the Universal Healthcare Action Network of Ohio, said that "people will be able to find out about private and public insurance options, what things will cost, what's available" (Ludlow, 6/25).

The Associated Press/Fresno Bee: "Californians who have been denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions could find relief under legislation coming before the state Senate. Two bills would create a high-risk pool for those people to buy health insurance and allow California to collect up to $761 million in federal funds" (Bussewitz, 6/27).

The Washington Post: "It is among the top early selling points of the health-care overhaul -- a new rule that has particular appeal for middle-class, middle-age voters: Young adults who lack health insurance will soon be able to remain on their parents' plans until age 26. But although Obama administration officials note that the provision will help millions, the benefit is proving less immediate than many families expect."  

"According to the law, health plans don't have to comply until their first renewal date after Sept. 23. For some plans, that's as soon as October. For many, it's January. For others, the compliance date won't be until May" (Aizenman, 6/27).

Boston Globe: "An appeals panel decision to overturn the [Gov. Deval] Patrick administration's cap on Harvard Pilgrim Health Care premiums for small businesses and individuals has created more uncertainty for regulators, health insurers, and their customers as state officials prepare to rule next week on another round of proposed premium hikes.

The three-month dispute has pitted insurers who insist the cap is forcing them to lose tens of millions of dollars against state government leaders who contend soaring rates are crippling small companies and working families. part of a stepped-up review of rate requests, [regulators] now will take a closer look at what insurers pay different providers, Barbara Anthony, state undersecretary of consumer affairs and business regulation, said yesterday. One question they will ask, she said, is 'Why are carriers paying one hospital $500 and another hospital $1,500 for an MRI?'"' (Weisman and Wallack, 5/26).

Meanwhile, extension of the COBRA subsidy for newly-laid off workers is part of an ongoing issue among Democrats, The Hill reports: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lost her patience with the Senate this week. The fiercely political but usually tempered Pelosi lashed out at Senate Republicans on Thursday after their unanimous objection to extending unemployment benefits caused the legislation to fail for the third time in a week. ... Just before the Memorial Day recess, Pelosi refused to publicly lash out at the Senate after she was forced to scale back a package of unemployment insurance extensions, aid to states and extended COBRA health insurance benefits" (Allen, 6/26).

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