Nashua Telegraph: President’s health insurance plan open for business today
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
CONCORD – Enrollment begins today for individuals who want to purchase health insurance through the government-run exchange or marketplace in New Hampshire.
The long-awaited, nationwide start for this phase of the Affordable Care Act is here for up to 170,000 in the state without insurance and those who already have insurance through the individual market.
Participants can enroll in the exchange by visiting www.healthcare.gov.
“This gives consumers and buyers a new way to shop for health care that fits within a need and budget,” said Tony Carrk, a health care expert with the liberal, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
During a conference call with reporters Monday, residents were encouraged to carefully select coverage after determining which plan works best for them.
Anyone who wants to meet the federal deadline of Jan. 1 to purchase health insurance must enroll by Dec. 15.
“This is really a marathon not a sprint. This is a very critical decision people are making, decisions on what health care they are going to get,” Carrk said.
But while advocates vowed to move from confusion to clarity about the Affordable Care Act, a new federal program offering potential choice for those on the exchange raised more questions than it answered.
The federal Office of Personnel Management and Budget announced the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association was approved to sell insurance under a multi-state program on the exchange in 30 states including New Hampshire.
Federal officials moved quickly in the past few weeks to complete this option even as lawmakers and health care providers in New Hampshire and other states criticized decisions by insurance companies selling on the exchange to limit the choice of providers for consumers.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire has come under withering criticism here as the only insurer on the exchange that is eliminating 10 hospitals from its network, including Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua.
Anthem officials said the narrower network meant they could reduce by an average 25 percent what they would otherwise have to charge consumers for the coverage.
Yet, it remains unclear whether this multi-state option will give individuals any more choice.
On the federal website, anyone clicking on New Hampshire’s “options” finds two health plans already being offered on the exchange by Anthem in New Hampshire.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is one of two navigators the Obama administration picked to help consumers make choices on the exchange.
“Americans for Prosperity, a fiscally conservative, special interest group, has waged an expensive PR campaign against the Affordable Care Act.
New Hampshire Director Gregory Moore was skeptical this multi-state option would improve the options for residents here.
“Until we see some plans, it is hard to speculate on what those would look like, but the poison pill for all of this is too many new regulations, benefit mandates and cost shifting that will to make it harder for the people they are trying to reach,” Moore said.
“Our whole point from the beginning has been the federal government can’t manage access to health care coverage more effectively or efficiently than the private sector. So brace yourself for plenty of delays, glitches, cost overruns and broken promises.”
To generate more public awareness, advocates will host a press conference this morning and public information events in Keene and then one at Nashua Public Library starting Tuesday night at 6.
Planned Parenthood policy director Jennifer Frizzell said 65 percent of their clients lack insurance.
“We have a captive audience and will use that to our advantage,” Frizzell said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Maggie Hassan and the State Employees Association announced an effort to spread awareness about the exchange to part-time, state workers who now don’t get health insurance.
“No family should have to choose between paying the rent and receiving necessary medical care,” Hassan said in a statement. “With the marketplace, hard-working New Hampshire families and individuals will be able to choose from a series of health insurance products and access coverage at more affordable rates, which will lead to stronger health and financial well-being for people across the Granite State.”