Temporary High-Risk Pool Welcome, Needed

The federally funded high-risk health insurance pool, one of the first major pieces of national health care reform to come into existence, is apparently more welcome — and needed — in California than it is in other parts of the country.

When the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board — the state agency in charge of California’s pool — announced premium rates and the companies that would be handling the program last week, state officials said they already have received 4,000 requests for applications.

In the 21 states where the federal government is handling the high risk pool, the combined total of applicants so far is 2,400.

The federal high-risk program is expected to help cover 2,500 Californians, about one tenth the estimated 250,000 who qualify in the state as “hard-to-insure” because of pre-existing conditions. California’s own high-risk pool, in existence for about 20 years now, will continue to operate cover as many as it can afford — about 7,000.

The math still leaves many out of the equation, but we have to remember, these are only temporary programs.

In less than three-and-a-half years, the terms “high risk,” “hard-to-insure” and “pre-existing condition” are scheduled for extinction, along with both the federal and state  high risk pools.

Starting in 2014, health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Part of the national health care reform law requires that insurers put everybody in the same pool — young, old, pre-existing conditions, high risks and all.

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