Many states to form new high-risk insurance pools
by desmoinesdem, Sat May 01, 2010 at 11:50:08 AM EDT
The health insurance reform bill passed in March included a program to help states form new insurance pools to cover people with pre-existing conditions until 2014. April 30 was the deadline for states to inform the federal Department of Health and Human Services whether they planned to participate. As of Friday afternoon, officials in 28 states had announced plans to create new high-risk pools, while officials in at least 15 states (listed here) had declined to participate for fear that federal funds may be insufficient to cover the operation of these pools until 2014.
Here are more details about the program:
Consumers will be eligible for the new pools if they have a pre-existing medical condition and have not had insurance for at least six months.
They will pay premiums that parallel rates being offered by commercial insurers to healthy people on the individual market. Many existing high-risk pools charge such high premiums that many people cannot afford the coverage. Today, high-risk pools in 34 states cover only about 200,000 people.
Individuals who sign up for the new pools also will not have to pay more than $5,950 a year out of their pockets for medical care, according to the legislation.
In Iowa, Democratic Governor Chet Culver hailed the new pools as a step toward giving uninsured people access to affordable coverage. Experts from the Iowa Policy Project have estimated that the new high-risk pool could serve more than ten times the number of people enrolled in Iowa's current high-risk pool, which has operated since 1987.
CORRECTION: Although the Iowa Policy Project estimated that more than 30,000 Iowans might be eligible for the new program, the Des Moines Register quoted HIPIOWA Executive Director Cecil Bykerk and State Senator Jack Hatch as saying federal funding will allow only about 1,000 people to be covered in the new high-risk pool before 2014.
All three Republican candidates for Iowa governor oppose our state's participation in the new federal program. The Des Moines Register quoted Rod Roberts directly and spokesmen for Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. I don't know how quickly the new pool will be up and running, but I'd like to see the Republican nominee for governor explain to Iowans with pre-existing conditions why they should have to go without affordable insurance coverage until 2014. If I were Culver's campaign manager, I'd consider running ads on this issue in the fall.
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