NU Online News Service, July 26, 10:30 a.m. – Fortis Health, Milwaukee, says it is returning to the New Hampshire individual medical insurance market.

Fortis is responding to the enactment of S.B. 118, a “health-reform reform” law that will take effect July 2002, the company says.

Fortis plans to sell individual health insurance products to New Hampshire residents through agents for State Farm Insurance Companies, Bloomington, Ill., as well as agents who represent Fortis Health.

Fortis Health, a unit of the Fortis group, a giant financial services company based in Amsterdam and Brussels, last year formed a marketing partnership that gives State Farm agents the ability to sell Fortis Health individual medical insurance products throughout the United States.

The new New Hampshire individual health insurance law “will, in our opinion, help bring back a competitive individual health insurance market to New Hampshire,” says Sharon McAuley, a vice president at State Farm.

New Hampshire lawmakers tried to help sick state residents get affordable coverage in 1994 by passing a “guaranteed issue” law for the individual market.

The law required insurers to accept almost all applicants, regardless of their condition.

The law backfired. Individual health insurance rates have tripled since the law was enacted, and 29 insurers have left the state.

Only four companies are still selling health coverage to individuals and small businesses in New Hampshire, Fortis says.

The new law sets up a risk pool to provide affordable coverage for people with serious medical problems, while allowing insurers to use underwriting information when selling and pricing coverage for individuals.

The new law will encourage insurers to come back to the state with less expensive products, Fortis predicts.