Here we go. It’s not on the “major” sites yet because the gov’t doesn’t want to scare everyone like they should be. It’s the frog in the water on the stove. They’ll let these little leaks to smaller outlets come first then the “big news” will hit and by then…it’s too late to stop it. Time to wake up folks.
Health law risks turning away sick
07/01/10 07:13 PM ET–
The Obama administration has not ruled out turning sick people away from an insurance program created by the new healthcare law to provide coverage for the uninsured.
Critics of the $5 billion high-risk pool program insist it will run out of money before Jan. 1, 2014. Thats when the program sunsets and health plans can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.
Theres a certain amount of money authorized in the statute, and we will do our best to make sure that that amount of money insures as many people as possible and does as much good as possible, said Jay Angoff, director of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I think its premature to say [what happens] when its gone.
The administration has not discussed asking Congress for more money down the line if the $5 billion runs out before Jan. 1, 2014. Uninsured sick people could start applying for participation in the high-risk insurance pools on Thursday.
Healthcare experts of all stripes warned during the healthcare debate that $5 billion would likely not last until 2014. Millions of Americans cannot find affordable healthcare because of their pre-existing conditions, and that amount would only cover a couple hundred thousand people, according to a recent study by the chief Medicare actuary.
Republicans continued to hammer that point on Thursday, asking HHS officials to brief them about the program.
We are deeply concerned that these pools may not provide quality coverage or will limit enrollment, Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas), John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas), the ranking members on the Energy and Commerce panel and its health and oversight subcommittees, wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The letter requests a briefing on high-risk pools by July 15, particularly on three topics: protections and services in place to make sure that access is efficient and unimpeded; whether HHS believes the program is financially sustainable through 2013; and details about how each states pool will be administered and what options theyll have available.
Leading health reform advocate Ron Pollack, founding executive director of Families USA, said the pools were a very imperfect tool that could be implemented quickly but were the best option available for the interim period before 2014.
The pools are going to be helpful for a significant number of people, he told The Hill, but nobody thought theyre the ultimate answer for helping people with pre-existing conditions.
Still, he didnt rule out that Families USA could press lawmakers to allocate more money in a few years if it looks like the program needs it.
Each state has a certain budget allocation for its pool, and the first step to stay under budget would be to shift money around between states that dont see a lot of applicants and those that do, said Richard Popper, deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at HHS.
If we have that situation where we have strong demand in one state and not as strong demand in another state, the secretary of HHS after a year or two has the authority to reallocate the funding, said Popper, who used to run Marylands high-risk pool.
In addition, Popper said, many people wont be able to afford to participate in the program since premiums will range between about $140 and $900 a month, depending on applicants age and where they live. HHS estimates that at least 200,000 people will be in the program at any one time. To be eligible, applicants have to be citizens or nationals of the United States or be lawfully present; have a pre-existing medical condition; and have been uninsured for at least six months before applying for the high-risk pool plan.
There are going to be meaningful premiums that are going to be required to stay in this plan premiums in the hundreds of dollars every month, Popper said. There are a significant number of people out there with pre-existing conditions who are uninsured, but a significant number of those people … also have limited income. And some of them, while they may need this plan, the premiums may not be something they can afford.
We have that to think about as well, he added. But for those who can afford it, this is going to be a great, great plan.
If it looks like too many people are signing up states will get monthly updates on how many people they can cover with the money they have left theres always the option of turning people down.
The bill does give the secretary authority to limit enrollment in the plan … nationally or on a state-by-state basis, Popper said. So that is present, but at this point, were starting with no one in the plan as of today … so we dont see that happening anytime soon.