States, Federal Government Move Forward With High-Risk Pools

The federal government began accepting applications for the high risk pools it will run in 29 states and the District of Columbia last Thursday, PBS Newshour reports. The other 21 states chose to run their own pools and may be on different schedules. The $5 billion program for people who have been denied coverage on the commercial market and have been uninsured for six months or longer "is intended to be a stopgap measure until 2014, when the bulk of the health care reform law goes into effect -- including a provision that will ban all health insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions" (Winerman, 7/1).

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Within a few weeks, up to 5,600 Pennsylvania residents with pre-existing conditions will have an opportunity to purchase full-coverage health insurance at a greatly reduced price. Using $160 million in federal funds from the federal Health Care Reform Act, Pennsylvania will offer insurance covering hospital and physician visits; prescriptions; mental-health services; and diagnostic tests -- for $283.20 a month" (Stouffer, 7/7).

Also, "Colorado will receive $90 million in federal money to subsidize health insurance for up to 4,000 people rejected by private insurers because of pre-existing medical conditions, Gov. Bill Ritter announced Tuesday," The Denver Post reports. "By federal mandate, premiums cannot cost more than what a healthy person of similar age would pay in Colorado. They will range from $115 a month for an 18-year-old nonsmoker in Boulder County to $807 for a 64-year-old smoker in Eagle County. The annual deductible is $2,500, with $30 copays for doctor visits" (Brown, 7/7).

However, the Jacksonville Times-Union reports, "Federal officials concede that the $5 billion set aside for the program probably won't be enough. If 200,000 apply, as is expected, the money will run out in 2013, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. Also, that coverage will be expensive. The rates won't be released until July 15, but the premium for a 50-year-old Floridian is expected to be between $552 and $675 a month. That's a rent check for many folks" (Cox, 7/6).

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