N.H. marketplace may offer fewer options in 2017

  • In this photo taken Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 a customer reads information in Spanish about Blue Cross Blue Shield and Obama Care at a kiosk at Compare Foods in Winston-Salem, N.C. Such atypical approaches to selling health insurance policies are playing out across the country since the second round of open enrollment under the federal Affordable Care Act opened in mid-November. Insurance companies and some states are focusing heavily on signing up eligible Hispanics, a group that accounts for a large share of the nation's uninsured but largely avoided applying for coverage during the first full year the health care reform law was in effect. Hispanics accounted for just 11 percent of those who enrolled in the private policies sold during the initial sign-up period, which ended in March. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Gerry Broome

  • This map shows New Hampshire hospitals. Colors differentiate which county the hospital is located in. Courtesy—NH INsurance Department

Monitor staff
Published: 6/23/2016 11:51:21 PM

The state’s health insurance marketplace will again have five companies offering plans next year, but the number of small-group options will fall by about one-third and the number of companies offering dental insurance will be down to two.

Those numbers, presented at a public session Thursday, are still preliminary and don’t include rates, which are still in flux. It is generally expected that prices will rise sharply next year; insurance companies are citing losses due to factors such as high drug costs and a shortage of healthy patients enrolling in the programs to balance out patients who use a lot of medical services.

Average health insurance premiums were markedly lower in New Hampshire this year than the year before under the federal health care program, largely because more companies had entered the state’s marketplace.

Wisconsin-based Assurant Health pulled out of the New Hampshire Health Network last year and then left the business entirely, but it has been replaced for 2017 by Ambetter from New Hampshire Healthy Families, being offered through Celtic Insurance.

According to a presentation given Thursday by the New Hampshire Insurance Department, submissions to the state as of April indicate that the plans will be offered through five companies, also including Anthem Blue Cross, Harvard-Pilgrim, Minuteman Health and Community Health Options. The providers are proposing to offer 44 individual plans, an increase of 12 from this year, but just 21 small-group plans for businesses of 50 or fewer employees, a decline of 9 from this year.

These numbers aren’t certain, however.

“Networks can change,” cautioned Michael Wilkey, an examiner with the Insurance Department who gave the presentation. Those changes can take place all the way through open enrollment, and even after. There could be (additions), could be deletions, as we have seen.”

Open enrollment will begin Nov. 1 for the fifth year of the Health Insurance Marketplace under Obamacare.

One major change in New Hampshire next year is that just two companies plan to offer dental insurance – Anthem and Delta Dental – compared with four firms now.

“This is a tough marketplace . . . we’ve heard from carriers that the enrollment numbers are not significant,” Wilkey said. “The first year everybody wanted to see what the marketplace would bear. We started out with 22 (plans). . . . we’re down to 11, with seven individual and four small-group (dental) plans.”

The New Hampshire Insurance Department is also putting together a list of providers – more than 100 so far – in several treatment categories for substance abuse included in the program. These categories range from partial hospitalization to medication-assistant treatment with a number of drugs including methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone) and naltrexone (Vivitrol).

For more information, check the New Hampshire Insurance Department website at nh.gov/insurance/consumers/mp_plans.htm, or Covering New Hampshire at coveringnewhampshire.org/about-marketplace.

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


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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