HHS cuts premiums for pre-existing conditions

Disappointed by enrollment in its stopgap health plans for patients with pre-existing conditions, the federal government is taking the almost unheard-of step of slashing premiums for such coverage, according to Kaiser Health News.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it would cut premiums by about 20 percent in 2011 in 23 states and the District of Columbia, where it operates the program. HHS would ask the states that operate the program on their own to cut rates as well.

Enrollment in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan has lagged far behind projections that 375,000 people would enroll this year. Little more than 8,000 people enrolled nationally, even though the federal government has provided the plan with $5 billion in funding. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that as many as 200,000 Americans would be enrolled by 2013--the year before such plans would be replaced by insurance exchanges operating on the state level.

Enrollment appears to be dictated in part by premiums. Pennsylvania, which charges one of the lowest rates in the program--$283 a month--has 1,657 enrollees, more than 20 percent of the nationwide total and 1,000 more than any other state. In Missouri, where premiums start at 50 percent higher than Pennsylvania and can top out at nearly $1,000 a month, only 101 residents have enrolled.

For more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- read the Associated Press article