Enrollment in high-risk insurance pools created by the federal health reform law has substantially increased over the previous 75 days, after months of slow enrollment, Politico reports (Kliff, Politico, 1/31).
The federal health reform law established the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan to provide coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions prior to 2014, when private insurers are required to accept all applicants. However, the pools have enrolled fewer residents than expected since the plans began operating this summer.
In April, federal officials estimated that about 375,000 residents would gain coverage through the high-risk pools. Some experts questioned whether the $5 billion allocated to the program would be sufficient to cover those residents (California Healthline, 11/8/10). However, only 8,011 individuals had enrolled by November 2010.
Because of the low enrollment, the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week launched an investigation into implementation of the program (Politico, 1/31). In a letter to HHS, the committee asked the agency to explain the low participation. Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and oversight subpanel Chair Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) wrote, "There is reason for concern that early enrollment has proven sluggish despite early predictions that the (Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan) would show that the public was willing to embrace" the reform law (California Healthline, 1/26).
However, enrollment counts have experienced a significant uptick in recent weeks. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that about 10,000 U.S. residents now are enrolled. An official enrollment count is expected from the Obama administration later this month.
Reason for Enrollment Increase
The agency cites an "aggressive outreach effort to reach people who are eligible for" the pools, according to HHS spokesperson Jessica Santilla.
On Monday, the Obama administration will continue the campaign in Missouri, where HHS will hold meetings with representatives from various organizations, such as consumer advocacy groups, health care provider groups, state officials, not-for-profits and others that work with people who have pre-existing conditions.
In addition, the agency was able to help boost enrollment by reducing premiums for high-risk plans run by the federal government by about 20% and by extending coverage options to include an extended plan and an option that includes a health savings account.
States that run their own high risk pools also are managing or planning outreach campaigns, and some have already seen improved enrollment, Politico reports (Politico, 1/31).