February 20, 2013
HELENA, Mont. – Montana must stop taking new enrollees into the state's federally funded high-risk insurance pool by March 2, according to federal officials who wrote Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen last week.
The letter, dated February 15, states that the federal high-risk pool stopped taking new enrollees on Friday, but that states had until March 2 to stop taking any new citizens into the pool. There are currently 344 people in the pool, which is administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana.
Montana has three high-risk insurance pools, each managed by the Montana Comprehensive Health Association, a private board under the supervision of the Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance. Friday's announcement deals only with one of the high-risk plans the association manages – one funded completely with federal dollars though a contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
A high-risk pool is special insurance for people with serious pre-existing medical conditions who cannot buy insurance in the market because it is not available.
The letter, from Richard Popper, director of the Insurance Program Group at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), states that CMS carefully tracks the high-risk pool expenditures because Congress has allocated $5 billion for the account and it cannot go over. The letter didn't say how much money remains in the account, but that it is being closed to new enrollees over budget concerns.
The federally-funded pool was set to expire at the end of this year, when federal health insurance exchanges and other programs go into effect designed to allow people with serious medical conditions to affordably purchase health insurance on the open market.
Montanans needing high risk insurance may still obtain it after March 2 through the other two programs managed by the state association. For more information, call the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance at 444-2040 or the Montana Comprehensive Health Association at 1-800-447-7828, ex. 2128. More information is also available at the Montana Comprehensive Health Association's website at http://www.mthealth.org/montana-affordable-care-plan.