State Lowers Rates For Its Pre-Existing Conditions Health Plan

Aug 3, 2011

Last year, Connecticut started a new insurance plan for people with pre-existing medical conditions.  But few signed up.  Now, as WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports, the state is trying to get more people to enroll by lowering the plan’s cost. If you’re under 30, the Connecticut Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan costs you $243 a month.  But if you’re in the plan’s target group and you’re 60 year’s old, it plan costs you nearly $800 a month – so much that just 75 people signed up in the program’s first year.   "The initial premiums for many, many people -- especially those who have a lot of health bills -- is too much." That's Robert Zavoski, the medical director for the state's Department of Social Services.  He says that more than a hundred people each month should become eligible for the plan. So try and boost enrollment, Zavoski said the state got permission from the federal government to have one flat monthly rate of $381 for everyone -- regardless of your age. "We hope with the decrease in the premium to make it more affordable for a lot more people that the program will grow much more rapidly." The federal Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan -- or PCIP -- began with the passage of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – the health care reform law passed last year.  It provided Connecticut with a maximum of $50 million to help uninsured state residents get access to medical care. It’s open to residents who have qualified medical conditions, and who have been uninsured for six months. Jaye Weisman is the Boston and New York regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  She says federal enrollment numbers in the plan weren't any better that Connecticut's. "One of the observations nationally was that one of the reasons people may not have been enrolling in the program, in addition to their not knowing about the program,  was because the rates might have been too high for them." Weisman says the goal of the PCIP plan is to bridge the gap between now and 2014, when the new federal health exchanges will be open for enrollment. Those insurance plans won't be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.