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Despite uncertainty, all insurance companies want to return to N.H. marketplace next year

  • FILE - This April 30, 2013 file photo shows the short form for the new federal Affordable Care Act application in Washington. Getting covered through President Barack Obama’s health care law might feel like a combination of doing your taxes and making a big purchase that requires some research. You’ll need accurate income information for your household, plus some understanding of how health insurance works, so you can get the financial assistance you qualify for and pick a health plan that’s right for your needs. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)



Monitor staff
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New Hampshire’s health insurance marketplace continues to fare well compared to other states struggling in the face of uncertainties about the future of the Affordable Care Act, since all four companies currently selling policies in New Hampshire have applied to do so again next year.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department said in a press release Tuesday that it has received initial filings from insurance companies to offer various medical and dental plans on the 2018 New Hampshire Marketplace on healthcare.gov through the ACA.

About 92,000 people received health insurance in New Hampshire through the marketplace this year, according to the release. Those who get health insurance through their jobs or other private companies are not directly affected by the ACA.

Ambetter from NH Healthy Families, Anthem, Harvard Pilgrim and Minuteman Health want to continue to sell individual policies, while all but Ambetter want to continue offering small-group plans to firms with 50 employees or fewer through the Small Business Health Options program. Anthem and Delta Dental want to again offer dental insurance.

This news is in contrast to many other parts of the country, where financial problems are prodding companies to leave state marketplaces. At least four other states are in danger of having just a single company, or even no companies at all, offering individual health plans on the marketplace in 2018.

The applications do not include proposed rates; those will be submitted by June 2.

This year, New Hampshire had the lowest average rate increase for the ACA plan of the 38 states involved in the Health Insurance Marketplace – 2 percent, compared to an average of 25 percent in other states. Private and employer insurance programs may have had different rates of increase.

Roger Sevigny, commissioner of the department of insurance, said that while the state’s marketplace is “relatively healthy,” “there is significant uncertainty now about what the market environment is going to be in 2018 and beyond, including whether cost-sharing reductions will be fully funded by the federal government.

In addition, there are significant inflationary pressures on premiums, most notably the growth of medical and pharmaceutical costs,” he said in a statement.

The Insurance Department has requested proposals to develop macroeconomic models on the probable impact of a number of possible developments that would affect health insurance, especially focusing on New Hampshire’s individual health insurance market.

Under the ACA, the New Hampshire Insurance Department reviews forms and rates from companies and recommends them for final approval by the federal government, which operates the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

The Friday deadline for companies to apply was an extension to give companies more time to apply due to uncertainty about what the Trump administration would do for the current national health insurance program, also known as Obamacare.

New Hampshire’s Health Insurance Marketplace is run by a partnership between the federal government and the state. The Insurance Department reviews forms and rates and then recommends them for final approval by the federal government, which operates the marketplace.

The Insurance Department will make its final recommendations to the federal government by Sept. 27, and the federal government will formally sign off on plans by Oct. 12.

Open enrollment for 2018 individual plans will take place between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15. SHOP plans can be purchased by an employer at any time throughout the year.

By law, the Insurance Department cannot release rate information for 2018 Marketplace plans until Nov. 1. If any proposed rates reflect an increase of 10 percent or more above last year’s rates, the federal government, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will publish information about them, likely sometime this summer at ratereview.healthcare.gov.

The Insurance Department will host two information sessions in June on the health care provider networks likely to be available through Marketplace plans in 2018. The first session will take place Monday, June 26, from 10 to 11 a.m. in Concord at the Brown Auditorium, 129 Pleasant St. The second will be held online on Wednesday, June 28, from 11 a.m. to noon

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)