Last year, Ohio legislators approved a plan to establish a high-risk insurance pool in the state in order to appease new federal health care laws. The program was meant to attract residents who have had trouble obtaining insurance coverage in the past due to high-risk illnesses or chronic conditions. With more than 1,800 people currently enrolled in the plan, legislators are now seeing higher-than-expected costs in keeping the program afloat. In an attempt to mitigate the rising costs of the program, legislators have now limited enrollment.
The program was meant to provide insurance coverage during the transition toward a health insurance exchange system, which is scheduled for completion in 2014. When the exchange was completed, those receiving coverage through Ohio’s high-risk insurance pool would have been directed toward the exchange to shop for new, more affordable policies. The state received more than $150 million in federal grants to ensure that the program was effective, which would allow nearly 5,000 residents to enroll. According to regulators, however, the program has only enough money to accommodate some 2,400 people.
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Making matters more difficult is the trend of higher insurance rates in the Ohio insurance market. With rates already unmanageable for those with chronic illnesses, the state’s high-risk insurance pool is often the last resort for comprehensive coverage. As the costs of the program continue to rise, however, legislators may have to raise the program’s rates in order to ensure its longevity, putting even more financial strain on residents.