Pennsylvania's Insurance Department is asking the federal government to reconsider proposed changes to the federally funded, state-run high-risk health plan for people with preexisting health conditions.
Since October 2010, Pennsylvania's PA Fair Care program has been providing discount health insurance to thousands of previously uninsured Pennsylvanians. It's meant for people who don't have coverage through work and who have a health history that makes it difficult for them to afford individual policies on the open market.
Today, according to the Insurance Department, PA Fair Care serves about 6,900 Pennsylvanians.
The program is funded by the 2010 federal health care overhaul, which staked the states $5 billion to run these programs through at least 2013, until the online health insurance exchanges kicked in.
But that $5 billion wasn't enough, and now the federal government is asking states to either agree to a limited amount of funding through the remainder of 2013 -- and bear the risk of any potential cost overages -- or to move people off of the state's PA Fair Care program and into the federally administered high-risk, preexisting condition plan.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's administration wants to do neither and instead wants the federal government to continue paying the full, uncapped cost of the PA Fair Care program.
Moving people off of one plan and into another would be unnecessarily disruptive, Insurance Department Commissioner Michael Consedine said in a letter sent last week to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"Gov. Corbett and I respectfully request that you allow PA Fair Care to continue under the [initial] terms," the letter read.
The proposed changes to the program amount to "an abrupt ultimatum" that will cause "confusion and disruption for this vulnerable population," according to the letter.
Two months ago, CMS suspended all new enrollment in PA Fair Care and the high-risk plans operated in other states. The month before, the federal government suspended new enrollment in its own high-risk plan, but, like the states, is still paying for the coverage of current enrollees.
While some of the state-run plans suffered from low enrollment, Pennsylvania's high-risk plan is a standout, enrolling thousands while keeping premiums affordable, at $283 a month for an individual.
In 2010, the Obama administration estimated that as many of 375,000 would get coverage through either the states' or the federal government's version of the preexisting condition health plan.
But as of February 2013, enrollment was at 110,000, yet the program was still running out of money, which is why CMS suspended new enrollments that month.
Bill Toland: email@example.com or 412-263-2625.