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HHS Says 22 States to Run Own High-Risk Pools

By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

April 30, 2010 -- The Department of Health and Human Services said that as of Friday afternoon it has heard from 21 states and the District of Columbia that they will take part in a new program to offer insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, and 11 states that are opting out.

The deadline was Friday for states to say whether they want to operate their own high-risk pools for sick people who find it difficult if not impossible to obtain health insurance coverage. The temporary $5 billion program is authorized in the new health care law and will go out of existence in 2014 when insurance companies are forced to accept all comers.

Jenny Backus, acting assistant secretary for public affairs, said in a blog post to be put up on the HHS website that if a state does not participate, the federal government will set up a high-risk pool. There are 35 states that currently run pools though not all are accepting new participants.

As of 12:30 p.m. Friday, these are the states that will operate a program: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington.

States opting out are Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Some states have said they don't want a potential financial burden on their hands, and some Republican governors have framed their opting-out in terms of their opposition to the new health care law. Others say that if they set up a program it would be redundant with their current programs and add administrative costs.

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