This week, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter worked to ensure that New Hampshire's individual health exchange will function as a competitive marketplace and drive down premiums. Shea-Porter wrote to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, urging her to prioritize Multi-State Plans' entry into less-competitive marketplaces like New Hampshire's.
Starting October 1, 2013, the Affordable Care Act's consumer-friendly marketplaces will enable families and individuals who are uninsured or currently buy their own coverage to purchase quality insurance through a competitive exchange. All plans in the marketplaces will offer at least the minimum essential health benefits, and most uninsured Americans will have access to subsidies to purchase affordable health insurance. The marketplaces will make the insurance industry more transparent than ever, with apples-to-apples summaries of coverage and premiums available for every plan.
So far, only one insurer has applied to compete in New Hampshire's individual marketplace when it launches on October 1. That means the initial marketplace will reflect the state's current individual market, which is dominated by one insurance carrier with about 90 percent of the business.
To help promote competition, and in recognition of the fact that some states, especially smaller states like New Hampshire, have current insurance markets that are highly concentrated, the Affordable Care Act created the Multi-State Plan Program. Under the Multi-State Plan Program, the federal government will contract with two private health insurers to create insurance plans that cross state lines. By 2014, 30 states will be covered by Multi-State Plan insurers, and by 2017 all 50 states will be covered.
Congresswoman Shea-Porter wrote to Secretary Sebelius and Elaine Kaplan, Acting Director of the United States Office of Personnel Management, encouraging their organizations to make entry into less-competitive state insurance markets their top priority in awarding Multi-State Plan contracts for 2014 and beyond. "Prioritizing contract awards using that criterion will ensure that both the Multi-State Plan Program and the 2014 insurance exchanges achieve the ACA's intent to increase access and affordability for consumers," Shea-Porter wrote in the letter.
The Affordable Care Act is already expanding access to health care and increasing affordability for New Hampshire families. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare is stronger and 12,400 Granite State seniors are paying less for prescription drugs, women now benefit from preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost, young adults are gaining coverage through their parents' plans, and kids can no longer be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
Full text of the letter is below.
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
I write to urge you to ensure that New Hampshire's 2014 health insurance exchange will function as a competitive marketplace, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) intended. I am concerned about the recent news that only one insurer has applied to offer insurance on New Hampshire's exchange, which threatens the viability of the insurance exchange as a competitive marketplace.
Given that New Hampshire has elected to pursue a state-federal partnership, I know that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been working closely with the state to ensure successful implementation of the insurance exchanges, and that New Hampshire's partners at HHS share our commitment to achieving that success. Launching an insurance exchange that does not offer New Hampshire individuals and businesses any choice would represent a failure to address the current lack of insurer competition that causes such high premiums for my constituents.
I believe that we still have an opportunity to ensure that New Hampshire's exchange is competitive in 2014. The ACA created the Multi-State Plan Program in recognition of the fact that some states, especially smaller states like New Hampshire, have current insurance markets that are highly concentrated. I urge you to coordinate with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which will run the Multi-State Plan Program, to ensure that the program fulfills its intended role.
I hope that OPM, in cooperation with HHS, will make entry into less-competitive state insurance markets its top priority in awarding Multi-State Plan contracts for 2014 and beyond. Prioritizing contract awards using that criterion will ensure that both the Multi-State Plan Program and the 2014 insurance exchanges achieve the ACA's intent to increase access and affordability for consumers.
I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.
Member of Congress