HHS Announces Lower Premiums For PCIP Program.

The AP (6/1) reports, “The government is cutting premiums by up to 40 percent in 17 states and implementing other changes to make it easier for people with pre-existing medical conditions to get health insurance.” This announcement “comes as enrollment in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan continues to lag far behind expectations, often because people can’t afford the premiums or find it too hard to meet enrollment requirements.” The program is part of the healthcare law, which President Obama signed last year, and it “offers health insurance to people with medical problems at prices the average healthy person would pay, although that’s not necessarily cheap.”
USA Today (6/1, Kennedy) reports that the lower premiums will lead to “savings for people across the country,” according to Sebelius. For instance, “in Florida, the average monthly payment for a person older than 55 is $390. After July 1, it will drop to $234 a month.” In addition, “people who would like to enroll in the program…no longer need to provide a letter from an insurance company denying them coverage.” They simply “need a letter from a doctor saying they have a medical condition.” But, the “rule that a person may not have had health insurance for the past six months still applies.”
The Los Angeles Times (6/1, Levey) reports, “The administration is directly slashing premiums in the District of Columbia and most of the 23 states that have elected to have the federal government run their health plans. The remaining 27 states, which each run their own plans, will be able to reduce premiums as well.”
The Wall Street Journal (6/1, Adamy, Subscription Publication) says that many consumers had shied away from the program largely due to costs. The Administration hopes that the new changes will make the program more attractive to people with pre-existing conditions.
The Hill (6/1, Baker) explains in its “Healthwatch” blog that the “high-risk pools were designed to provide a temporary option for people who haven’t been able to get insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies will be required to sell insurance to everyone beginning in 2014, regardless of their health status.” To date, however, enrollment rates have been lower than anticipated.
The Huffington Post (6/1, Delaney) reports that in fact, “only 18,000 Americans have signed up for the PCIP. Officials initially said it would reach hundreds of thousands by the time the program is phased out in 2014, when it will become illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against the sick.”
The National Journal (6/1, McCarthy, Subscription Publication) reports, “Starting July 1, 2011, people applying for coverage can simply provide a letter from a doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner dated within the past 12 months stating that they have or, at any time in the past, had a medical condition, disability, or illness,” HHS stated.
CQ (6/1, Norman, Subscription Publication) reports that Richard Popper, the CMS official who oversees the program, “told reporters Tuesday that the people are being enrolled ‘at an increasing rate, but we know we have the capacity to cover even more people so we’re making these adjustments today.'” Popper added that “HHS officials cannot waive other eligibility requirements that are spelled out in the statute, such as a rule that people must be without insurance for six months before qualifying for the risk pool.”
Also covering the story are Reuters (6/1), McClatchy /Kaiser Health News (6/1, Galewitz), the Arizona Republic (6/1, Alltucker), Fort Worth Star Telegram (6/1, Fuquay), Miami Herald (6/1, Singer), Palm Beach Post (FL) (6/1, Singer) “On Call” blog, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal (6/1, Milliard).

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