WASHINGTON BUREAU — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to save the struggling Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan program by paying agents and brokers enrollment commissions.
HHS also plans to ease eligibility standards and cut the cost of participating in the program, officials say.
The PCIP provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) was supposed to provide immediate relief for uninsured people with health problems, to help fill the gap until insurers start selling subsidized coverage on a guaranteed issue, mostly community-rated basis in 2014.
PCIP is supposed to provide comprehensive health coverage for people with health problems for a price similar to the price of ordinary individual commercial health coverage.
Eligibility is not based on income, and the risk pools cannot charge higher rates for people with more severe health problems.
Congress let states choose between running PCIP risk pools themselves or letting HHS provide PCIP risk pool services for their residents.
HHS now provides PCIP services in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
Program critics originally predicted that millions of uninsured Americans with health problems would rush to enroll in the program and quickly use up federal PCIP funding.
HHS officials estimate the program had a total of only about 18,000 enrollees nationwide
HHS will be leaving PCIP premiums the same in 6 jurisdictions where PCIP premiums are already well-aligned with premiums for conventional commercial health insurance, but realignment cut premiums by as much as 40% in the other 18 jurisdictions with federal PCIP services, officials say.