Ohio Weighs High-Risk Health Insurance Pool

The Ohio Legislature is looking at plans to help patients with expensive conditions – lung disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis and other ailments – buy the drugs they need for treatment.

However, the plans would only cover those who are unable to get insurance because of their existing conditions, not the uninsured or the poor, according to Associated Press.

State officials estimate the number at 13,000 people who might be able to buy insurance if they could. If it’s available at all, they often pay three times the rate others pay – up to $1,000 a month, The Columbus Dispatch reported Saturday.

A high-risk insurance pool could help solve the problem, an Ohio Department of Insurance report says. But the cost is high – to the would-be insured and hospitals.

A plan being discussed in the Legislature could be funded by premiums paid by those who need the medication – $476 a month to start – while fees would be charged to hospitals and those already insured.

“We are hoping to reach people out there who could afford insurance if only they could get it,” said Ann Womer Benjamin, director of the Ohio Department of Insurance and a former House member.

To be eligible, people would need two rejected applications for insurance and a qualifying health condition.

Tiffany Himmelreich, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Hospital Association, said other business should share the financial pain. “Hospitals really can’t withstand another budgeted cost, faced with Medicaid cuts from the state and already under-cost payments from other government sources,” she said.

State Sen. Lynn Wachtmann the goal is not to deal with the “masses of uninsured.”

“We specifically were targeting this legislation toward what we believe are approximately 17,000 Ohioans who earn money and have jobs, and because of health issues – heart attack, cancer – they are unable … to purchase health insurance,” Wachtmann, a Napoleon Republican, said.

He and state Rep. Jim Raussen plan to introduce legislation in January to fund a high-risk pool.