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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Survey: Most in NH who got ‘Obamacare’ insurance didn’t have health insurance before

Almost two-thirds of people who bought a health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace in New Hampshire did not have insurance previously, even though almost 80 percent of them held a job – probably because most of those jobs were sporadic or shift-based.

That’s one of many findings from an extensive survey conducted by the firm Myers Research & Strategic Services at the behest of Covering New Hampshire, the organization that is overseeing implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the state. The survey, of 850 people, some with health insurance and some without, took place in April. ...

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Almost two-thirds of people who bought a health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace in New Hampshire did not have insurance previously, even though almost 80 percent of them held a job – probably because most of those jobs were sporadic or shift-based.

That’s one of many findings from an extensive survey conducted by the firm Myers Research & Strategic Services at the behest of Covering New Hampshire, the organization that is overseeing implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the state. The survey, of 850 people, some with health insurance and some without, took place in April.

Its release comes as the New Hampshire portion of the program often called “Obamacare” is taking something of a breather as it prepares to move into its second phase with the expansion of Medicaid in August, followed by next year’s fivefold increase in companies offering health insurance packages.

“These numbers show us that an overwhelming majority of Granite Staters who enrolled in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan are satisfied with the affordability and choices that were available to them,” Karen Hicks, project director for Covering New Hampshire, said in a press statement about the survey.

“Our next challenge is to engage those who still remain uninsured during the next open enrollment period.”

According to federal figures, 40,200 people in the state enrolled in the program as of April 15. That’s about twice what had been predicted before sign-ups began in October, although it still leaves an estimated 110,000 people in the state without health insurance.

The expansion of Medicaid, a federal health insurance program for the poor, is expected to make insurance more available to many of those people.

It will provide less expensive health insurance options for thousands of people whose income currently puts them in a “coverage canyon” between too poor and too well off to get assistance.

As of July 1, applications will be accepted for what is being called the New Hampshire Health Protection Program Applications, with coverage starting Aug. 15.

Sign-ups for the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s first national health insurance program, began last October and immediately ran into severe problems with the federal health
care.gov website that New Hampshire used as its interface.

Despite well-publicized difficulties that extended into December, the survey said 51 percent of enrollees reported no problems getting insurance, while another 29 percent reported only “minor” problems.

They’ve also gone beyond just signing up, said Jayme Simoes, of Covering New Hampshire, who noted that more than 90 percent “of people who signed up have already paid their first and second month’s bills.”

More New Hampshire residents have enrolled since April 15, although exact numbers aren’t available and the number of extra enrollments is likely to be small since the main sign-up period ended in March. Only people with extenuating circumstances, such as losing a job, can sign up before enrollment in the health care marketplace for 2015 begins Nov. 15.

Whereas this year only Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is offering health insurance via the Affordable Care Act, five companies will offer insurance packages next year.

Simoes said Anthem has reported that roughly 80 percent of the people signing up “were new customers to Anthem.”

Next year will also see the latest step in the Affordable Care Act when people have to report on their tax forms whether they have health insurance. One of the most controversial aspects of the Affordable Care Act is the individual mandate, which requires virtually all American adults to buy health insurance.

The penalty next year for those without health insurance will be 1 percent of yearly household income above the tax filing threshold, $10,150 per individual, or $95 per adult for the year.

The penalty increases every year. The next year, it will be 2 percent of someone’s income, or $325 per person; the following year, it will be 2.5 percent of a person’s income, or $695 per person; and afterward, it will be adjusted for inflation.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).