The Associated Press (via Yahoo! News) reports the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) Interim High Risk Pool designed to cover people in the individual health insurance market with pre-existing medical conditions isn’t getting much interest. In several large states including California, there have been less than 500 applicants for Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) since coverage became available around July 1. Under the PPACA, the coverage is intended to serve as a stopgap until insurers and health plans must accept all applicants starting Jan. 1, 2014.
Sabrina Corlette, a Georgetown University research professor, told the AP the premiums are being set too high with the exception of Pennsylvania. That state charges a flat $283.20 (plus additional co-pays and coinsurance) monthly premium for its PA Fair Care PCIP regardless of the age of the applicant. Keystone State officials opted to use this form of rating — known as community-based rating contemplated under U.S. Health and Human Service Department regulations governing PCIPs — versus age-based rating employed by most other state PCIPs. “While other states have reported their high-risk plan applications are trickling in, Pennsylvania’s response to PA Fair Care has been brisk,” the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance announced in a September 30 news release. The news release notes the program is initially capped at 3,500 enrollees with enrollment on a first-come, first-served basis.
Since premiums in the individual market for those without pre-existing conditions have gone up around 20 percent this year, it’s not surprising that age-based rates in state PCIPs for those who do have pre-existing medical conditions are substantially higher than Pennsylvania’s. “I think there’s some sticker shock going on,” Corlette told the AP.
Likely heightening that shock is people’s constrained finances in the current troubled economy. Other observers blame tepid initial enrollments in state PCIPs on the PPACA’s requirement high risk pool applicants be medically uninsured for at least six months. That’s more likely to describe people in their 20s and 30s who tend to have fewer pre-existing conditions than the middle-aged. Self-employed individuals in their 40s and 50s with pre-existing medical conditions aren’t as likely to go bare for such a long period and are more inclined to seek coverage than so-called “young invincibles.”
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