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New Hampshire reinstates high-risk health insurance pool

New Hampshire has reinstated its state-sponsored high-risk health insurance pool for people with serious health conditions.

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A high-risk health insurance pool is considered a last resort for people who have been denied insurance in the traditional marketplace because of health problems, such as cancer, stroke, chronic depression, or heart disease.

State regulations allow insurers to adjust individual health insurance premiums for age, health status, and tobacco use. Lawmakers adopted this measure to balance a 1994 law that guaranteed all New Hampshire residents access to health insurance, regardless of their medical history. The new rules also will override older state regulations that restricted insurer's ability to adjust rates. Because of the 1994 law, many health insurers fled the state. The insurers that remained balked at not only having to guarantee access to their plans, but also at having little flexibility to set rates.

Lawmakers hope that the new legislation will bring insurers back to the New Hampshire market and increase competition. In turn, they believe the competition will lower escalating health insurance rates and encourage younger, healthier people to purchase health insurance. When rates are high, younger people tend to go without coverage while older, less healthy individuals remain in the market, driving costs even higher.

The high-risk pool will be financed through a 60-cent charge per month on all residents covered by health insurance. For those who qualify for health insurance through the pool, there will be rate caps that will not exceed more than 150 percent of standard health insurance premiums in the state.

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