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Anthem to release N.H. health plan details next week

New Hampshire individuals who buy health insurance through the new online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act will have 11 plans to choose from.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Hampshire will be the only company offering health insurance plans through the new marketplace when enrollment opens Oct. 1 for coverage that will take effect in January. The federal government has approved the company’s 11 medical plans, a stand-alone dental plan and a small number of plans for small businesses. Details about their costs and benefits will be released next week, Anthem President Lisa Guertin said yesterday. Four dental plans also will be available from Delta Dental.

While Anthem has faced criticism for creating a smaller provider network for its individual plans, Guertin said that was the only way to keep premiums affordable. The new network includes 16 of the state’s 26 acute-care hospitals.

“It’s narrower, but it’s not a skinny network,” she said. “We really feel that this offering is the optimal balance of affordability and access.”

Guertin’s comments came during the monthly meeting of the Health Exchange Advisory Board, where she serves as co-chair. The board includes consumers, insurers, providers and others who have been advising state agencies on implementing the law.

Under the federal law, virtually everyone in the country will be required to have health insurance or face fines. The new insurance marketplaces will offer individuals and their families a choice of private health plans resembling what workers at major companies already receive. The government will help many middle-class households pay their premiums, while low-income people will be referred to safety-net programs they might qualify for.

New Hampshire opted not to run its own online markets, but Gov. Maggie Hassan’s administration has tried to have the state partner with the federal government to manage health plans and provide consumer assistance. Republicans have tried to block the second partnership, leaving a $5 million grant intended for New Hampshire-specific education and outreach in limbo.

The New Hampshire Health Plan, which runs the state’s high-risk pool, has applied to receive the money but is still awaiting a decision. In the meantime, it has hired a consulting firm and issued requests for proposals from companies and organizations that want to play a role in engaging and educating consumers or creating a media campaign to spread the word. Those proposals are due Friday.

Mike Degnan, executive director of the New Hampshire Plan, said the consulting firm, Public Consulting Group, has started work without being paid, and if the grant funding comes through, a contract will be worked out.

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