GEARING UP / Sebelius gauges governors’ interest in participating in temporary high-risk insurance pools.
In a first step toward providing coverage to uninsured people who have preexisting medical conditions, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to governors in each state gauging their interest in participating in a temporary high-risk pool. The new health reform law appropriates $5 billion in federal funds to create short-term mechanisms to cover the uninsured who cannot qualify for insurance on the open market because of prior medical conditions. These highrisk pools will be in existence until 2014, when insurers will be barred from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. States have several options. They can set up their own high-risk pool, build on existing programs or do nothing, in which case HHS would provide a coverage program in that state. Thirtyfour states have high-risk pools already, with a total of about 200,000 participants, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.