Expanded Medicaid for low-income adults is coming, but may be delayed. Meanwhile, four more insurance companies say they’re ready to join New Hampshire’s marketplace for coverage next year. And as we head into this fall's elections, the health care law remains a major point of political contention.
Todd Bookman – NHPR’s health reporter
Jenny Patterson - health legal counsel at the New Hampshire Insurance Department
Time is running out for individuals looking to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The cut-off to start the sign-up process is March 31st, and unlike previous deadlines, it looks like this one may actually hold.
That’s got John Carland taking the process more seriously.
“I put things off,” says Carland. “I’m a procrastinator. So, I just put it off until I had to do it, I guess.”
Health insurance products sold in New Hampshire’s exchange would face public hearings under a bill passed by the Senate.
Supporters say the hearings will provide transparency about what exactly the plans cover, and which doctors and hospitals are participating. The move comes in direct response to Anthem’s so-called narrow network exchange plans that leave out 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals.
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.
New Hampshire consumers looking for information about the health law can now turn to a local website.
CoveringNewHampshire.org 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.
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.
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.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen continues to press the Obama administration to extend the enrollment period for those looking to buy coverage through the new health law. In an op-ed in USA Today, Shaheen says consumers shouldn’t be penalized by a failed website roll-0ut.