CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire residents who haven’t yet signed up for insurance under the federal health care overhaul law can expect to find reminders around every corner as the open enrollment period comes to a close.
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is one of the groups serving as navigators to help consumers explore their options. The organization added 50 additional appointment time slots for the final two weeks, is extending the hours of its enrollment events to include more nights and weekends and is increasing outreach efforts at libraries, hair salons, fitness clubs and bars in hopes of finding young people to sign up.
“We’re really ramping up what we’ve been doing times two,” navigator Jaime Chabot said. “It’s along the same lines, but we’re doing everything twice as hard.”
New Hampshire has roughly 150,000 uninsured residents. By the end of February, 21,578 people had signed up for insurance through the federal marketplace. That surpassed President Barack Obama’s administration’s target of 19,000 for the state for the entire Oct. 1-March 31 enrollment period, even though New Hampshire got off to a late start with marketing and consumer outreach.
After Republicans initially blocked the state Insurance Department from accepting a $5 million federal grant, the New Hampshire Health Plan, which previously ran the state’s high risk insurance pool, eventually got the money just before enrollment opened Oct. 1. Since then, the money has gone to marketplace assisters at six community organizations, the coveringnewhampshire.org website that launched in late December and a marketing campaign that included television, radio, online ads and direct mail.
Traffic to the website has continued to climb, reaching about 1,200 visitors a day by last week, said project director Karen Hicks.
“I’ve been pretty pleased with how this has gone, given that we started late,” she said. “I think we have made very good use of these resources and come up with an overall program that is extremely well targeted.”
The Foundation for Healthy Communities, one of the marketplace assister organizations, initially focused its efforts on hospitals and other health care facilities but more recently has been holding enrollment sessions at libraries, community colleges and community centers, said project manager Bernadette Cameron.
“It’s been getting really busy,” she said. “People are calling a lot more now.”
Many people have come in saying they tried to sign up online from home when the enrollment period first opened but gave up because the website was plagued with problems, she said.
“They just kind of left it alone, and now that it’s finally March, they’re saying, ‘I tried it before, now I need some help,’” she said.
New Hampshire opted not to set up its own marketplace and is partnering with the federal government to educate consumers and manage the health plans being offered.
For now, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire is the only insurer offering health plans through the exchange, and it has faced criticism for excluding 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals from its provider network. At least two other companies have said they plan to begin offering plans next year.