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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.

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