An early feature of the new health-care law that allows people who are already sick to get insurance to cover their medical costs isn’t attracting as many customers as expected.
In the meantime, in at least a few states, claims for medical care covered by the “high-risk pools” are proving very costly, and it is an open question whether the $5 billion allotted by Congress to start up the plans will be sufficient.
Federal health officials contend the new insurance plans, designed solely for people who already are sick, are merely experiencing growing pains. It will take time to spread the word that they exist and to adjust prices and benefits so that the plans are as attractive as possible, the officials say.
State-level directors of the plans agree, in part. But in interviews, they also said that the insurance premiums are unaffordable for some who need the coverage – and that some would-be customers are skittish about the plans because federal lawsuits and congressional Republicans are trying to overturn the entire law.
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, the program’s official name, is an early test of President Obama’s argument that people will embrace the politically divisive health-care overhaul once they see its advantages firsthand. According to some health-policy researchers, the success or failure of the pools also could foreshadow the complexities of making broader changes in health insurance by 2014, when states are to open new marketplaces – or exchanges – for Americans to buy coverage individually or in small groups.