WMUR: Lawmakers mull new powers for commissioner to deal with insurance changes

WMUR: “Providing this flexibility to the department is something essential that we need to do in this time of uncertainty and unpredictability.” said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth.

Lawmakers mull new powers for commissioner to deal with insurance changes

CONCORD, N.H. —As uncertainty clouds the future of the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers in Concord are taking steps to prepare New Hampshire for major changes to the health insurance market.

As Republicans in Washington attempt to fulfill a campaign promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, GOP leaders in Concord are bracing for the possibility they might succeed and eliminate Obamacare exchanges and subsidies.

“If those go away, we will have a significant problem in the individual market,” Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is considering an amendment that would give more flexibility to Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny to act in the event of major health insurance changes in the coming months.

“(I could act) depending on what happens in regard to the Affordable Care Act and the federal government and what Congress does, or to address matters more immediately if the rate hikes are significant,” Sevigny said.

One option would be to bring back something similar to the high-risk pool previously used to cover patients with the most serious conditions.

“We would more readily call it an ‘invisible high-risk pool,'” Sevigny said. “It wouldn’t be transparent to the consumer, but the funding mechanisms behind it would be what addresses the high-risk portions of it.”

Some conservatives voiced concerns that the amendment would grant too much power to the insurance commissioner, but others said that doing nothing could be far more costly for consumers.

“Providing this flexibility to the department is something essential that we need to do in this time of uncertainty and unpredictability,” said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth.

As to whether there will be rate increases, the insurance commissioner said he can’t provide specifics yet because the carriers haven’t released their official figures. He said he believes that a significant increase is likely.

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