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High Risk Health Insurance Pool Is Extended for N.H. Residents

Concord — Nearly 3,000 New Hampshire residents who have health insurance through the state’s high risk pool will be allowed to keep their coverage until alternatives are fully available under President Obama’s health care overhaul law.

The high risk pool serves 2,750 residents who otherwise may have trouble obtaining insurance. It was scheduled to shut down Dec. 31 because after that, insurers must issue polices without regard to health status. But given the problems with the federal government’s website for purchasing plans, many people have been worried that they won’t be able to purchase new insurance in time to avoid interruptions in coverage.

Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny said Monday he will issue an order later this week allowing the high risk pool to remain open until the federal marketplace is fully available.

“These people need to know for certain that they will have coverage in January of 2014 and cannot wait until the last minute to enroll through healthcare.gov,” Sevigny said.

Eight months ago, Laura Miller, of Concord, told lawmakers that because of a preexisting condition, the high risk pool was her only insurance option, but she hoped to be among the first state residents to sign up for new coverage when the online marketplace opened Oct. 1. She said Monday she has tried numerous times to enroll online without success, and after consulting an insurance agent, had decided to wait until the end of November to try again. She was pleased to hear that the risk pool will be extended.

“I’m very happy,” she said. “That takes the stress off of people panicking about not being able to get in.”

One month after the launch of the federal website, only 269 people in New Hampshire had selected a health plan, figures released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed. The launch has been sharply criticized because of technological problems and a number of cancellation notices to people whose current plans don’t meet federal requirements.

Those notices went out to about 22,000 Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire customers, but they can keep their plans for another year if they renew by Nov. 30.