The Role of Education in Effective Health Care Coverage for NH
By Champion, Sandi Van Scoyoc, HNH Foundation President
Our citizens and employers need assistance
Beginning October 1, 2013, 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 of New Hampshire, 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.
Funding is in legislative limbo
The Legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee has tabled the grant award from the federal government, effectively delaying use of the portion of funds allocated for this fiscal year, roughly $340,000. The remaining funds are also 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 NH residents unnecessarily confused and without the resources to improve their situation. We know from research 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 that are available to them.
130,000 people in New Hampshire do not have health insurance
Nearly 80% of those without insurance have a full-time worker in their family. The good news is that 90% 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.