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About 8,200 enrolled in Medicaid expansion since July

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated the enrollment figures for the state's Medicaid expansion because of an error in the enrollment information presented by the health department. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program enrolled 8,276 people as of Monday, Aug. 4.

A month since applications for the New Hampshire Health Protection Program went live, it has attracted about one-sixth of the 50,000 people the state estimated would be eligible for expanded Medicaid benefits.

So far, officials said they’re not worried about the pace of enrollment; they expect it to pick up in the months ahead as the department ramps up its outreach efforts.

“We are really, truly at the starting line,” state Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas said at last week’s meeting for the state’s Medicaid Care Management Commission, where updated enrollment figures were presented.

As of Monday, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services said 8,276 people have enrolled in the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. Of those, 8,207 are enrolled in the Alternative Benefit Plan – which covers “10 Essential Health Benefits required under Affordable Care Act,” including treatment for mental health and substance use – and 69 with extenuating medical conditions are enrolled in standard Medicaid.

That’s up from the 2,102 New Hampshire Health Protection Program enrollees as of July 10, according to the minutes of last month’s Medicaid Care Management commission meeting.

An additional 361 people who sought Medicaid coverage have been redirected to the Health Insurance Premium Payment. The state will use federal guidelines to determine whether they meet “cost-effectiveness” requirements for Medicaid to cover the cost of their employer-sponsored insurance.

But the key figure, cited over and over again by state officials, is 50,000 – or the number of New Hampshire residents who were not previously insured but, according to the state, would qualify for the Medicaid expansion.

Separately, a 2013 study – conducted by The Lewin Group, a health consulting firm, and funded by Health Strategies of New Hampshire – projected that 58,000 people would enroll under the Medicaid expansion. The same study suggested that 22,300 of those people would remain uninsured without the expansion, while the rest would receive coverage through the Health Benefits Exchange, the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate or private coverage.

Deputy Commissioner Marilee Nihan, also speaking at last week’s Medicaid Care Management commission meeting, said the state expects “another several thousand” enrollees in the months ahead.

Moving forward, Nihan said the state plans to reach out directly to about 40,000 people “who sought Medicaid assistance through the federal application process” and will send letters to about 8,800 people who reached out to the department about coverage before the start of enrollment. It will also continue to hold forums with providers about the expansion, she said.

The state has also been meeting twice a week with the managed care organizations, she said, “to make sure everything is going smoothly.”

Enrollment for the program opened July 1, and coverage for the fee-for-service component of the program will begin Friday, allowing newly enrolled residents to start getting coverage before the care management component takes effect.

The care management component will begin Sept. 1, at which point either New Hampshire Healthy Families or Well Sense Health Plan – the two care management organizations that have contracted with the state on the expansion – will begin oversight of new enrollees’ treatment and services. Meridian Health Plan previously signed on to participate in the program but withdrew in June.

New Hampshire residents who are 19 to 65 years old and whose incomes fall within 138 percent of the federal poverty level – $1,342 per month for a single-person household – are eligible for coverage under the expansion, according to the health department.

People can continue to enroll on an ongoing basis after the program launches. Applications and details about the coverage can be found at nheasy.nh.gov.

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or cmcdermott@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)

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