Saturday, August 05, 2006

High Risk Coverage

Premiums for the state's health insurance plan for high-risk people will rise in October - an increase that could force even more Nebraskans out of the program.

Premiums are expected to jump an average 23 percent - even more for older people buying lower-deductible coverage.

The plan is for people who do not have access to health insurance through employers and can't get coverage from private insurers, or would have higher premiums through private insurance

High risk pools, usually considered the answer to uninsurable conditions, are becoming more costly to run. Even with taxpayer subsidies the premiums paid by the insured is becoming cost prohibitive.

In 2004, more than 6,000 Nebraskans bought insurance through the state's Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool. By June, the number had dropped 10 percent, to 5,400

As the number of participants drop, the cost of providing cover for the rest of the pool increases as fewer dollars are available to pay claims. This results in even higher premium increases for those who remain in the pool.

State Insurance Director Tim Wagner said rising claims could exceed revenue in a couple years. The program is paid for by people's premiums and a subsidy from the state tax on insurance premiums.

With the increase, Nebraska will have some of the highest premiums for any state high-risk program in the nation, said Holly Whelan with the American Diabetes Association.

At least one state (Florida) closed their risk pool a few years ago to new entrants. Other states may follow and Nebraska may very well be the next.
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