Friday, April 30, 2010

States divided on Obamacare high-risk insurance pools

The number of states declining to participate in the federally-funded Obamacare high-risk insurance pools increased to at least 11 states on Friday.  From the Wall Street Journal:
A temporary insurance program that is part of the national health overhaul is exposing one of the thorniest aspects of the new law—much of its success rides on how individual states implement it.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services and individual states said 12 states chose not to administer a new high-risk pool program that begins in July, while 21 states and the District of Columbia will run their own. The pools are designed as a short-term way to provide insurance for people with pre-existing health conditions who have been turned down by insurers.

Consumers in those 12 states will still have access to the program, because the federal government will step in to run their pools. Information on the remaining states wasn't available as of late Friday.

Several of the states that declined to run the pools said they were concerned they would be forced to pay for the program if it exhausted its federal funding. Last week, an actuarial report from HHS found the program would burn through the $5 billion set aside for it as soon as next year, though the money is supposed to last until 2014.

"We cannot afford to expose Minnesota taxpayers to added potential costs and administrative burdens now," Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who opposed the health overhaul, wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that was released Friday.
This is clearly a vote of no confidence for the new health care reform law.  Stay tuned for the decisions of the remaining 17 states.

Update:  The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Texas governor Rick Perry has announced that his state will not participate in the Obamacare high-risk pools.  It also reported that the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Friday that 15, rather than 11 states have decided not to participate.  It was not immediately clear if Texas was included in the 15.  I will post a clarification when it becomes available.

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