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Anthem Gives Customers More Time To Pay First Bill

Jan 15, 2014

Customers who bought health insurance in the new exchange are getting more time to pay their first month’s bill. Anthem Blue Cross says New Hampshire consumers who signed up before the deadline for coverage starting January 1st now have until the end of the month to pay their first month’s premium. The deadline was originally today.

Last week the company’s president acknowledged that many new customers still hadn’t received their insurance ID cards and that a help line was overwhelmed with calls.

N.H. Enrollment In ACA Marketplace Plans Tops 11,000

Jan 13, 2014
Data: U.S. Health and Human Services

After a slow start, December saw a surge in the number of New Hampshire residents shopping for health insurance on the new exchange. The federal government reports nearly 10,000 consumers in the state selected a plan between Dec. 1 and Dec. 28.

In total, about 11,500 people selected a plan during the first three months of open enrollment, which runs through March 31. 

NHPR Staff

Lawmakers returned to Concord Wednesday, and House Democrats wasted no time passing a bill to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

Their latest Medicaid plan, which was tacked onto a different bill they’d planned to kill, would send some newly eligible recipients into the exchange for coverage, but not until 2017.  

The past few weeks served as a cooling off period after last November’s special legislative session failed to produce a deal on Medicaid expansion between the Democratically-held House and GOP-controlled Senate. 

The debate will roar back to life on Wednesday, though, when Democrats in the House say they’ll tack an expansion plan onto an unrelated bill.

Teens Having Harder Time Buying Tobacco

Jan 6, 2014
Justin Shearer / Flickr Creative Commons

 Illegal sales of tobacco to minors in New Hampshire dipped in 2013, as more retailers in the state refused underage customers.

The Department of Health and Human Services, along with Division of Liquor staff members, sent underage buyers into more than 300 retailers around the state. Roughly 89% of vendors turned away sales, up two percent from 2012.

State public health director Jose Montero says convenience store clerks aren’t the only ones who can protect children.

New Hampshire could soon have a new system for determining who gets to make medical decisions on behalf of patients who lack the ability to do it themselves.

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Peggy Gilmour, are pushing a bill that creates what’s called a surrogate decision-maker system.

“I think people assume that, for instance, I could speak for my husband,” says Gilmour. “Or, one of my children could speak for me. But that’s just not the case.”

New Hampshire consumers looking for information about the health law can now turn to a local website. bills itself as the gateway for the health insurance marketplace. Browsers can learn about the law, use an online calculator to see if they qualify for tax credits, and window-shop the 11 different insurance plans Anthem is offering through the Affordable Care Act.

The state of New Hampshire has agreed to settle a major class-action lawsuit over its treatment of residents with serious mental illness.

Under the terms of the agreement announced Thursday, the state will spend an additional $30 million on expanding services for the strained mental health system over the next 4 years. 

N.H. Insurance Department '2012 Medical Cost Drivers Report'

A new report finds health care costs in the state continue to rise, even as New Hampshire residents visit doctors less often.

The Insurance Department’s annual report, based on 2012 rates, finds average premiums were up just about 1% from the year before. But Tyler Brannen, an analyst with the Department, says those premium dollars are actually buying consumers less coverage.

HIV In New Hampshire: A Problem For 'Over There'

Dec 18, 2013

Three decades after the start of a global epidemic, roughly 35 million people are living with HIV worldwide, and more than a million in the United States. New Hampshire maintains one of the lowest rates of infection in the country, but stigma and misinformation about the virus persist locally.

As an AIDS outreach worker with Dartmouth Hitchcock in Nashua, Jean Adie works against those forces.  

She acts out a typical interaction:

“Jeez, you know, you’re having unprotected sex. When was the last time you were tested?” she’ll ask.

“Oh, I’ve never been tested.”

Via U.S. Digital Maps Archive

While the Affordable Care Act is a federal law, it’s playing out very differently across the states. In New Hampshire, strong opposition from Republican lawmakers and a lack of competition between insurance companies has marred the roll out advocates had hoped for.

 Consumers will have more health insurance options in New Hampshire starting in 2015. Massachusetts-based non-profit Minuteman Health says it plans to compete in the state’s exchange with a wide network of hospitals.

CEO Tom Policelli says his company has already begun talks with many of the state’s providers.

“We believe that we can come into New Hampshire and offer a much more broad network than Anthem has, and still deliver an excellent price point, and that’s what we intend to do,” says Policelli.

Anthem is the only company selling products in 2014.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is denying a complaint filed by Frisbie Memorial Hospital over its exclusion from Anthem’s provider network for individual policies.

In November, 1,300 New Hampshire residents were able to select insurance plans through That brings the total to 1,569 since the start of enrollment on October 1st.

New data out from the federal government show more than 8,700 people in the state completed applications for health insurance in the new marketplace.

Maine has seen activity similar to New Hampshire.

The Dartmouth Atlas

 A new study from the Dartmouth Atlas Project finds many children in northern New England receive potentially unneeded medical care that could have harmful side effects.

Researchers compared data for a range of care across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for children under age 18.

Anthem Blue Cross says it’s still having trouble processing some new health insurance enrollments because of computer problems.  

Kwiatkowski Sentenced To 39 Years In Prison

Dec 2, 2013

More than a year and a half after an outbreak of Hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital first emerged, a traveling medical technician has been sentenced to nearly four decades in federal prison. 

David Kwiatkowski, his hair trimmed short, looked heavier than at his last court appearance in August, when he pleaded guilty to 16 federal charges.

For nearly a decade, the defendant admits he routinely stole syringes of powerful pain medication. He would inject himself, and then reuse those needles on patients.

NHPR Staff

Anthem Blue Cross says it’s extending the renewal date for canceled health insurance plans to December 16. 

Last month, the company sent cancelation notices to 22,000 New Hampshire customers because current plans didn’t satisfy stricter new protections in the Affordable Care Act. Customers looking to renew originally had until November 15 to start the process, though that deadline was pushed back to December 1. Today's announcement gives policyholders an additional two weeks.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Richard Polonsky is an organizational consultant, and can, if prompted, easily talk like one.

“Being an outsider to an organization, I think people tend to listen to you more than when you are part of the organizational structure,” says Polonsky.

Based in Bedford, he has spent a career advising companies and non-profits on big campaigns. It’s a role Polonsky excels in: working from the outside, thinking strategically, and being blunt with management.

But as an independent contractor, he never received the same health benefits employees could access.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Much has been made of the changes introduced, with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, to the health care markets, but many still struggle to understand how they will be personally affected.

While only making up 3.5% of New Hampshire's overall market, the individual market is seeing the greatest level of upheaval, with the addition of the newly insured, the merging of the high-risk pools, changes to the small group market, shifting premiums, changing benefits, and federal subsidies.

The graphic below aims to make sense of many of the changes happening in the individual market.
[Click to view full size]

The New Hampshire Insurance Department wants to keep open a program that provides health coverage for 2,750 residents with pre-existing conditions. The $45-million high risk pool operated by the New Hampshire Health Plan was set to close at year’s end.

Since health insurance companies can no longer deny people because of pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act, state-run high risk pools around the country are winding down.

Anthem Blue Cross says it’s extending the renewal date for customers who buy individual policies. The state’s largest health insurance company informed brokers earlier this week that current policyholders who want to keep their plans will have until the end of the month to renew,  a two week extension from the original deadline of November 15.

Emily Corwin

  Governor Maggie Hassan made an appearance in Hampton on Friday morning at the public library. There, she called on Republicans in the Senate to come to an agreement with Democrats on how to expand Medicaid. 

Hassan began with her now familiar pitch for expanding Medicaid to more low-income people. Her choice of Hampton, however, was no coincidence.  The Governor had come to the hometown of Republican Senator Nancy Stiles with a message for the Senator:

Parties Continue To Negotiate On Medicaid Expansion

Nov 14, 2013

House and Senate leaders continue to debate an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program to more low-income New Hampshire residents.

A key difference between the two sides is how quickly New Hampshire moves an estimated 35,000 individuals from Medicaid into the exchange to obtain private insurance.  

House leaders and the Governor say the GOP’s plan to shift people in 2015 won’t work. Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, are defending their proposal.

Breaking Down A Big Day In Health News

Nov 14, 2013

A big day in the world of health policy, nationally and in New Hampshire. State regulators are still trying to gauge how to handle the President’s offer to let consumers keep canceled insurance plans. And in Concord, lawmakers continue to negotiate over Medicaid expansion, one week into a special session. NHPR’s Health Reporter Todd Bookman talks with All Things Considered Host Brady Carlson.

In New Hampshire, 269 residents have selected health plans through the new marketplace, according to figures released Wednesday by the federal government. 

A Concord-based PR firm is getting $1.9 million to launch a statewide media campaign promoting the federal health law.

Louis Karno & Company says it will use the money to create a website with New Hampshire-specific information on the Affordable Care Act by December, and then begin a broader media push including television and radio ads meant to educate consumers.

The New Hampshire Health Plan awarded the federal funds. Executive Director Mike Degnan says information on this health law is greatly needed.

Chris Jensen, NHPR News

Governor Maggie Hassan and House Democrats are offering to adopt the Senate’s plan for Medicaid expansion provided they make certain changes, but GOP leadership says the proposal falls short of a compromise.

On Wednesday, Hassan and House Speaker Terie Norelli outlined a package that would use the Senate’s language for expansion, but changes how and when individuals would access private insurance.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

On Tuesday, both the House and Senate held public hearings on competing Medicaid expansion bills. 

Supporters of growing the health program pulled out the same blue stickers they’ve worn at other recent public hearings. And many of the voices were the same, including doctors, nurses, advocates and citizens who shared stories about how access to health insurance would benefit low-income New Hampshire residents.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Ethan Wallace, head down, decisively storms out the backdoor of his group home in Plymouth. He checks on the garden, the shed, and then climbs onto some boulders edging the property.

“One thing about a guy like Ethan,” says Stuart Wallace, “he’s very healthy and very active. And with Ethan, there is no such thing as sitting still and relaxing.”