The new program serves as a bridge until 2014, when insurers will openly compete in the insurance exchange. At that time, all payers will be required to accept enrollees regardless of whether or not they have a pre-existing condition.
Some of those conditions include cancer, AIDS, diabetes and leukemia.
“People with pre-existing conditions will be treated like everyone else,” said Jay Angoff, director of HHS' office of consumer information and insurance oversight.
Under the new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, Americans who have been uninsured for at least six months and have been unable to get coverage because of a health condition can start enrolling in the states where HHS is administering the plan.
So far, 21 states have elected to have the federal health agency run the plans. The rest of the states, plus the District of Columbia, will operate their own plans but must offer buy-in to the pool by summer's end. (Please also see the article "Funds lacking for high-risk pools: lawmaker.")
President Barack Obama's reform law earmarked $5 billion for the program, which likely will see some 350,000 people enrolled at some point before 2014, HHS officials said.
Richard Popper, director of insurance programs at the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight and the former director of Maryland's high-risk pool, said that premiums will vary from state to state, but expects costs to range between $140 per month on the low end upwards of $900 per month. Age will also factor into premium costs.
“In most states, younger individuals will pay less than seniors,” Popper said.
The program will cover a wide range of health benefits, including primary and specialty care, hospital care and prescription drugs. But states also have a wide berth to design their own programs so long as basic requirements are met.
Further details of the program can be found on the newly launched government Website healthcare.gov.