Ambitious High-Risk Health Insurance Pools Supposed To Launch This Week

The Associated Press: "The Obama administration is launching a special coverage program for uninsured Americans with medical problems this week, the most ambitious early investment of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. But here's the catch: Premiums will be a stretch for many, even after government subsidies to bring rates close to what healthier groups of people are charged."  And the program funding Congress allocated to last through 2013 -- $5 billion -- may not last that long. "The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will begin accepting applications in many states on Thursday, with coverage available as early as Aug. 1, an administration official said Tuesday." Premiums will vary in different states, but the program is designed to be a stopgap fix for those who can't get coverage until 2014, when a health insurance exchange begins (Alonso-Zaldivar, 6/29).

Ventura (Calif.) County Star: California is ready to begin its high-risk pool program after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill to establish it. "With all subsidies coming from the federal government, the program is expected to be able to provide coverage for 25,000 to 30,000 Californians who lack insurance and are unable to buy it at any price. … States were given the option of creating their own pools or tapping into a federally run pool. … The two bills creating the California pool were approved on bipartisan votes. ... Once the federal Department of Health and Human Services certifies California's pool, it will receive an estimated $761 million in federal subsidies over the next 3 1/2 years." The pool will be operated by the same agency that operates the existing state insurance pool (Herdt, 6/29).

The (Doylestown, Pa.) Intelligencer: The federal government has approved Pennsylvania's proposal for its high-risk pool. "The next step for the state is to hire a plan administrator to run the $160 million federal program that will insure about 5,600 Pennsylvanians who otherwise can't find affordable health coverage. The state anticipates it will begin accepting applications for a new temporary high-risk insurance program by mid-July, after the federal government last week approved its plan to cover uninsured Pennsylvanians with pre-existing medical conditions for less than $300 a month." Officials expect to award a contract next week (Ciavaglia, 6/30).

Florida Today: "Florida opted out of the high-risk pools because of concerns about inadequate funding. The 28 states that now offer small high-risk pools spent $2 billion in 2008, covering about 200,000 people, [Mary Beth] Senkewicz [the deputy commissioner of life and health in Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation] said. In comparison, Florida is expected to get $351 million to cover an estimated 750,000 residents with preexisting medical conditions who've been denied coverage, she said" (Jenks, 6/29).

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