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New Hampshire health insurance

NH nears top of health rankings; uninsured rate drops to 8.7%

New Hampshire residents enjoy very good health relative to much of the country, and the state’s recently expanded Medicaid program is now providing realistic access to health insurance for many low-income residents. Public health and leadership’s stance on healthcare reform are significant factors that play a role in quality of life, productivity, and health outcomes.

Here’s a summary of how New Hampshire compares with other states in terms of overall health, access to health insurance, and the state’s approach to healthcare reform:

Carriers in New Hampshire’s individual market

For 2016, individual plans will be available from five carriers in New Hampshire. All five carriers offer plans both on and off the exchange:

  • Ambetter (Celtic)
  • Anthem
  • Community Health Options (previously known as Maine Community Health Options)
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  • Minuteman Health

New Hampshire health ratings

In 2014, New Hampshire was ranked 5th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia by The Commonwealth Fund’s Scorecard on State Health System Performanc. That’s a tumble of three positions from last year when the state ranked 2nd.  New Hampshire’s scorecard provides specific details about public health in the state and how the overall score was determined. The state is highly ranked in all categories, but particularly prevention and treatment, as well as access to care.

America’s Health Rankings 2014 placed New Hampshire slightly lower, in 7th place out of the 50 states in terms of overall health. The state’s rating is buoyed by low rates of infectious disease, infant mortality disease and violent crime. Factors that negatively impact the state’s ranking include low per capita public health funding as well as high rates of pertussis, drug deaths and cancer deaths.

Trust for America’s Health provides yet another look at overall public health in New Hampshire in their 2014 listing of Key Health Data About New Hampshire. Their summary includes socioeconomic health indicators, access to care, and the prevalence of various illnesses and health outcome predictors.

You can also see how the ten counties in New Hampshire compare with one another in terms of health factors and outcomes, using this interactive map created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. No single area of the state stands out as better or worse than any other; high and low ranking counties are dispersed throughout the state.

New Hampshire and the Affordable Care Act

In 2010, New Hampshire’s U.S. Senators were split on the ACA. Democrat Jeanne Shaheen voted yes, while Republican Judd Gregg voted no. In the U.S. House, Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes, both Democrats, voted yes. Shaheen is still in the Senate, but Gregg has since been replaced by Kelly Ayotte, a fellow ACA opponent. In the House, Ann Kuster replaced Hodes in 2013. She is an ACA supporter who wants to keep the law but improve upon it.

In the 2014 Senate race, Shaheen was one of relatively few Democrats who fully embraced the ACA and the changes it has brought about. She defended the law, saying it was “absolutely” an achievement of which she is proud. Shaheen won re-election against Republican opponent Scott Brown in 2014.

At the state level, the legislature is politically split, with a Republican majority in the Senate, and a Democratic majority in the House. Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, took office in early 2013. She is supportive of the ACA, and shortly after taking office she confirmed that the state would work with HHS to operate a partnership exchange in New Hampshire.

Hassan also prevailed in expanding Medicaid under the ACA, although New Hampshire is one of five states utilizing a unique approach to Medicaid expansion that involves subsidizing private health insurance for low-income residents – there are currently five states using the private option for Medicaid expansion, but Iowa announced in July 2015 that they will switch to a more standard approach to Medicaid expansion as of January 2016.

How has Obamacare helped New Hampshire residents?

Before the ACA was implemented, the uninsured rate in New Hampshire was 13.8 percent, lower than the national average in 2013. By the end of June 2014, six months after full Obamacare implementation, 12.4 percent of New Hampshire residents were uninsured at the end of June 2014.

The drop in the uninsured rate in New Hampshire was initially relatively small, but it became much more significant once Medicaid expansion went into effect in the summer of 2014. By mid-2015, the uninsured rate in New Hampshire had dropped to just 8.7 percent. In other states that both expanded Medicaid and created a state/partnership exchange, the uninsured rate was 8.9 percent.

New Hampshire enrollment in qualified health plans

In late 2013, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the potential market for New Hampshire’s health insurance exchange was 137,000 people and that about 81,000 of them would qualify for premium subsidies. By June 2015, nearly 45,000 people were enrolled in qualified health plans (QHPs) through the state’s exchange, and nearly 63 percent of them were receiving premium subsidies.

The New Hampshire exchange had just one carrier – Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield – in 2014. Anthem had 90 percent of the market share in the state prior to 2014, so the fact that only one carrier participated in the first year didn’t substantially changed things for most customers in New Hampshire. But starting in 2015, there was far more competition and plan choice in the New Hampshire exchange, with five carriers participating in the exchange in both 2015 and 2016.

Four additional carriers joined Anthem in the exchange in 2015. They included Assurant Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England, and two ACA-created Consumer Oriented and Operated Plans (CO-OPs): Minuteman Health and Maine Community Health Options. The two CO-OPs were created with federal funding under the ACA, and operated in their respective states – Massachusetts and Maine – in 2014, but expanded into New Hampshire for 2015.

In 2016, there will once again be five carriers in the New Hampshire exchange, although it will be a slightly different list. Assurant has pulled out of the individual health insurance market nationwide, but Ambetter (Celtic) is joining the New Hampshire exchange for 2016.

New Hampshire Medicaid/CHIP enrollment

New Hampshire is one of four states that expanded Medicaid in 2014 following a path that differs from the straight Medicaid expansion outlined in the ACA .Senate Bill 413 was signed into law by Governor Hassan in March 2014, and called for Medicaid expansion to begin that summer, with residents able to begin applying on July 1.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that about 39 percent of the uninsured population in New Hampshire would be eligible for Medicaid starting in July 2014. There is no longer a coverage gap in the state now that New Hampshire has become the 26th state to expand Medicaid under the ACA.

As of August 8, 2014, the state reported that 9,399 people had enrolled in expanded Medicaid in the preceding five-and-a-half weeks, with coverage set to go into effect on August 15. That number was significantly more than the 7,235 people who had enrolled in Medicaid through the New Hampshire exchange by mid-April, before the expanded eligibility guidelines went into effect.

By August 2015, total New Hampshire Medicaid enrollment had grown 43 percent (54,059 people) since 2013 — the 10th biggest change nationwide.

Until the end of 2015, Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire is following the program outlined in the ACA, and all legal residents with household incomes up to 138 percent of poverty will be eligible to receive Medicaid coverage. But starting in 2016, the state has plans to transition to a privatized version of Medicaid expansion, using Medicaid funds to subsidize private coverage.

However, Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire was agreed upon with a sunset date. If not extended by the legislature, Medicaid expansion will terminate at the end of 2016. In March 2015, lawmakers voted to remove 2016-2017 funding of Medicaid expansion from Governor Hassan’s budget, so there is currently no provision to fund Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire past the end of 2016. A lot could happen in the next year, however.

Does New Hampshire have a high-risk pool?

Before the ACA reformed the individual health insurance market, coverage was underwritten in nearly every state, including New Hampshire. This meant that pre-existing conditions could result in an applicant being rejected for coverage, or offered a plan with significantly higher premiums or policy exclusions. The New Hampshire Health Plan (NHHP) was created in 2002 to provide an alternative for residents with pre-existing conditions who were not eligible to purchase private individual health insurance because of their medical history.

But the ACA brought significant changes to the individual health insurance market, including a ban on medical underwriting; all policies are now guaranteed issue, in all states. This meant that high-risk pools are no longer necessary the way they once were, since applicants with pre-existing conditions now have the same insurance choices as the rest of the population.

NHHP was originally slated to cease operations at the end of 2013, but the troubled rollout of meant that many members were unable to purchase new coverage by the start of 2014. As a result, NHHP continued to provide coverage until June 30, 2014. At that point, any remaining policies terminated, giving members a 60-day special enrollment period during which they could purchase a new plan (involuntary loss of other coverage is a qualifying event that triggers a special enrollment period).

Medicare enrollment in New Hampshire

New Hampshire Medicare enrollment reached 264,286 in 2015, nearly 20 percent of the state’s population compared with 17 percent of the total U.S. population enrolled in Medicare. Historically, 80 percent of New Hampshire Medicare enrollees qualify based on age alone, while the balance are on Medicare as a result of a disability.

New Hampshire ranks 40th in terms of overall Medicare spending with $1.9 billion per year. Medicare spends about $8,762 per enrollee in the state.

New Hampshire Medicare recipients can select a Medicare Advantage plan instead of original Medicare if they wish to gain some additional benefits. Only 7.5 percent of New Hampshire beneficiaries choose Medicare Advantage instead of traditional Medicare coverage.

Fifty-six percent of New Hampshire Medicare recipients are enrolled in Medicare Part D plans, which provide stand-alone prescription drug coverage. Forty-three percent of all Medicare enrollees have Medicare Part D plans.

State-based health reform legislation

In addition to the bill that expanded Medicaid in New Hampshire this year, the legislature was quite active on health and healthcare reform. A variety of bills were introduced during the 2015 legislative session, including establishing a single-payer system and allowing individuals and small business to buy coverage from out-of-state companies. There was also a failed effort to legalize the sale of policies that don’t conform to the ACA’s coverage mandates.

Here’s a summary of health reform-related bills in New Hampshire: