Companies set to participate New Hampshire insurance market

By HOLLY RAMER Markets Associated Press

Uncertainty over which health insurers will continue coverage under the Affordable Care Act in New Hampshire ended Wednesday, with three companies confirming their participation before the deadline.

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Continued confusion in Washington over the fate of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law has created turmoil in the individual market, prompting concern that some insurers would drop out.

Anthem, Harvard Pilgrim, Ambetter by NH Healthy Families all had indicated earlier this year they planned to continue in the marketplace, but in recent weeks declined to reaffirm their commitments. All three, however, had done so by Wednesday's deadline for states to submit all 2018 plan information, other than rates, to the federal government.

"At a time when markets across the nation are collapsing, New Hampshire has built a bridge through 2018," said Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

A fourth company, Minuteman Health, will not be offering ACA plans in 2018. The Massachusetts-based nonprofit announced in June it was shutting down and hoped to reorganize as a for-profit company in time to offer 2018 marketplace plans, but it failed to secure necessary financing to do so.

Minuteman, which has roughly 27,000 New Hampshire customers, blamed a provision of the law that requires insurers with healthier customers to make payments to insurers with sicker customers.

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"While we had many productive conversations with potential funders, ultimately the chaotic atmosphere in Washington and volatility driven by the Risk Adjustment program proved too much for funders to make a long-term investment at this time," said company CEO Tom Policelli.

About 98,000 individuals in New Hampshire are covered through the state's federally facilitated insurance marketplace, including about 43,000 Medicaid recipients.

Republicans in Congress have been unable to deliver on a promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and an analysis released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that President Donald Trump's mixed signals on the issue have created significant uncertainty and led insurers to seek higher premium increases for 2018 than they would have otherwise.

Some premiums in New Hampshire are expected to increase by more than 40 percent. The state insurance department has been working on a plan to offset those hikes, but a legislative committee recently rejected a key part of the program it wanted to enact.

Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny said he's pleased the three companies confirmed they will offer plans next year.

"I have been deeply concerned about the stability of the state's individual health insurance market this year, as insurance companies have faced increasing costs and instability from the federal government," he said. "My department has been working closely with the companies and with state policymakers to try to find a path forward for our state."