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High-risk insurance pool closed to most new NC enrollees

Posted January 28, 2013

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— A North Carolina program that has provided health insurance to people turned down elsewhere because of chronic, pre-existing conditions will end enrollment for most new members Friday.

The high-risk insurance pool was created by the General Assembly in 2007 to help subsidize high premium costs for such people. It has been funded by a tax on insurance premiums, but the poor economy has left so many people dropping their insurance policies that funding for the high-risk pool has dried up.

Only people who meet certain requirements will be eligible to join the high-risk pool after the end of January.

Inclusive Health, high-risk insurance pool NC program no longer option for people denied health insurance

About 11,000 North Carolina residents are covered by the high-risk pool, and about 200 people a month join the program, said Michael Keough, executive director of Inclusive Health, which operates the high-risk pool.

Real estate agent Jill Morin had to turn to the high-risk pool after her husband's company went out of business. She wasn't eligible for traditional health coverage because she suffered a heart attack in 2009.

"I would stay up nights just wondering and worrying what I was going to do about health insurance," Morin said Monday. "I've got a pacemaker, defibrillator and lots of medicine."

She called the high-risk pool "a life-saver."

Keough said people can apply for coverage through the federal high-risk insurance pool run by Inclusive Health, but one requirement for that is to have been uninsured for at least six months.

If the state and federal pools aren't options, people will have to wait until Jan. 1, 2014, when the Affordable Care Act blocks insurers from turning away people with pre-existing conditions.

"Before we existed, Blue Cross (Blue Shield of North Carolina) was insurer of last resort for people, and when we came into being, that option was taken off the table because they did not need to play a role," Keough said. "There is no other safety net."

North Carolina and other states also must have health insurance exchanges set up by next year for people without employer-sponsored health coverage to shop around for their own insurance.

9 Comments

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  • david50 Jan 30, 11:42 a.m.

    As a Blue Cross Blue Shield NC agent, this comes as awful news. Inclusive Health has been a great help to people who weren't able to secure coverage elsewhere, and at affordable premiums. My concern is that while the new healthcare legislation addresses pre-existing conditions, will it address the size of the premium. Before Inclusive Health when BCBSNC was the insurer of last resort in NC their guaranteed issue rate was 7 times the quoted rate. Very few people can afford rates like that. I don't fault BCBSNC for charging these rates because if they were the only insurer to offer low rates then all the high risk applicants would gravitate to them and run them out of business. I see our healthcare system and it's cost deteriorating as a result of Obamacare. From a lowly health insurance agent: http://www.goebeltinsurance.com

  • btneast Jan 30, 8:55 a.m.

    The obama admin recently admitted that obamacare is not going to lower the costs of healthcare.

    Getting more people coverage is treating the symptom, not the problem. If rising costs are not addressed, eventually even insurance won't be able to pay health bills.

  • btneast Jan 30, 8:52 a.m.

    There doesnt appear to be a hidden tax on the people. According to NC Revenue dept, premium taxes are paid by the companies that do business in this state.

    Ummm, ALL taxes are paid by consumers. Taxes are another overhead expense that affects what your "product" will cost your end user. It goes to the cost of goods. Taxes are passed on to the consumer, just like a price increase from your supplier is passed on. One can try to absorb the tax to remain competitive, but at some point, it is passed on. It's mathematically impossible to not do so....and stay in busiiness.

  • Zealotry Jan 29, 11:08 a.m.

    So far all Obamacare has done is take away insurance, how is this better?

  • NCMom1 Jan 29, 10:53 a.m.

    FYI - There doesnt appear to be a hidden tax on the people. According to NC Revenue dept, premium taxes are paid by the companies that do business in this state.

  • beachboater Jan 29, 10:24 a.m.

    We are going to get an education when Obamacare is fully implemented. It can literally put "large employers" (businesses with more than 50 employees) out of business.

    Just imagine, suddenly having to pay for insurance for 50 or more employees. Imagine what that does for the bottom line.

  • Wake1 Jan 29, 8:43 a.m.

    The worst is yet to come!!!

  • rdc42179 Jan 28, 7:23 p.m.

    Wow you mean people had Heath insurance before Obamacare. Imagine that!!!

  • Danny22 Jan 28, 6:49 p.m.

    The obama admin recently admitted that obamacare is not going to lower the costs of healthcare. We all knew he was lying when he said it.