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Saturday, August 10, 2013

2nd insurer to offer plans in NH exchange in 2015

CONCORD – A second health insurance company intends to offer coverage in New Hampshire under the federal Affordable Care Act, but not until 2015.

For now, only Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield will offer plans through the new online markets when enrollment starts this fall. But Harvard Pilgrim Health Care plans to be a player in 2015, company vice president Beth Roberts said Friday. ...

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CONCORD – A second health insurance company intends to offer coverage in New Hampshire under the federal Affordable Care Act, but not until 2015.

For now, only Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield will offer plans through the new online markets when enrollment starts this fall. But Harvard Pilgrim Health Care plans to be a player in 2015, company vice president Beth Roberts said Friday.

The new markets, or exchanges, will offer individuals a choice of private health plans resembling what workers at large companies already get. The government will help many middle-class households pay their premiums, while low-income people will be referred to safety-net programs for which they might qualify.

Enrollment starts Oct. 1, with coverage taking effect Jan. 1. After that, virtually everyone in the country will be required by law to have health insurance or face fines. Those looming dates continue to worry members of a committee advising state agencies on implementing the law, given the protracted wrangling over federal funds earmarked for consumer assistance.

“I’m so concerned that people have absolutely no idea,” Lisa Morris told fellow members of the Health Exchange Advisory Board at its monthly meeting. “There’s no information, or there’s incorrect information out there, and I’m not sure what we can do as an advisory board to put out this information in a much bigger way.”

The state insurance department was awarded a $5 million grant to educate consumers, but Republicans have blocked the state from accepting it. Last week, the insurance department said a different group – the quasi-governmental New Hampshire Health Plan – will apply to accept the money instead. Roberts, the plan’s chairwoman, said she expects the application to be completed within a week, and if it is approved, the plan will solicit proposals from organizations interested in being involved.

In the meantime, numerous training sessions and public forums are being scheduled in coming weeks, several federal and local officials told the advisory board. Lisa Kaplan Howe of the advocacy group Voices for Help said her group is developing a comprehensive chart for its website that will showcase what is going on around the state. The group also will act as a matchmaker in connecting organizations that want to host forums or other events with knowledgeable speakers.

“There have been discussions about what everyone’s doing, but it’s all shared verbally and not housed anywhere,” she said.