Where’s the health coverage information that N.H. residents deserve?

With consumer assistance funding in legislative limbo, time is of the essence to educate N.H. about the Health Benefits Marketplace

Beginning Oct. 1, Granite State residents will be able to shop for private and public health insurance coverage through the New Hampshire Health Benefit Marketplace. Many previously uninsured or underinsured families and many small businesses will be able to access premium tax credits to help them afford the coverage.

Transitioning to any new system can be confusing. Our citizens and employers need information and assistance to help them effectively navigate these changes and enroll in a coverage plan that best meets their needs.

Earlier this spring, the federal government awarded the New Hampshire Insurance Department $5.4 million to help residents understand and enroll in the health insurance plans available in the marketplace. These funds will allow the state to provide information to ensure all Granite Staters understand the new health insurance opportunities available to them, often at a greatly reduced cost.

In addition, “in-person assisters” will be trained to work with uninsured residents who need help in navigating the new system. It’s important to note that the state, not the federal government, would regulate the conduct and training of these consumer assisters. The training and support that residents receive will be home-grown.

The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee has tabled the grant award from the federal government. This effectively delayed usage of the portion of funds allocated for this fiscal year, roughly $340,000. The remaining funds are unavailable until the state budgeting process is complete. So at this time, consumer assistance funding is in legislative limbo, just when time is of the essence to begin providing information.

This action leaves New Hampshire residents unnecessarily confused and without the resources to improve their situation. From research, we know that many New Hampshire residents are currently unaware of the many changes coming. Providing education about their options is critically important if they are to take advantage of the benefits available to them.

Approximately 130,000 people in New Hampshire currently do not have health insurance, and nearly 80 percent of those without insurance have a full-time worker in their family. The good news is that 90 percent of the state’s uninsured have incomes that will qualify them for financial assistance to enroll in coverage.

These hardworking low-income residents, along with small businesses across the state, deserve to have the information they need to understand the opportunities for insurance coverage that will be available to them very soon. Surely we can all agree that Granite Staters deserve to have the assistance they need to make informed decisions about their health coverage. We firmly believe that a locally controlled consumer assistance program is the best way to accomplish exactly that.

Sandi Van Scoyoc is president of the Concord-based HNH Foundation, whose mission it is to evaluate and promote access to quality health and dental insurance coverage and healthy lifestyles for the residents of New Hampshire.

Categories: Opinion