- Associated Press - Monday, June 2, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The number of companies offering health plans in New Hampshire under the Affordable Care Act will increase from one to five next year, the state insurance department said Monday.

The department said it has licensed Assurant Health and Maine Community Health Options to offer coverage through New Hampshire’s federally operated marketplace in 2015. It previously announced that Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England and Minuteman Health, a Massachusetts-based cooperative, would offer plans next year, along with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, which was the only company that offered plans during the health law’s first year.

“New Hampshire residents have asked for options,” Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny said. “It’s all about choice - choice of carriers, choice of plans, and choice of provider networks. Choice is good for consumers and good for competition.”

The Maine co-op will start by offering plans in Rockingham, Strafford, Carroll and Coos counties but plans to expand its reach later in the year. It intends to offer a broad provider network in its coverage area, the insurance department said.

That likely will be welcome news to critics of Anthem’s provider network, which excludes 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals. The insurance department held a hearing last month on a complaint from a Rochester woman challenging its approval of Anthem’s network. Company officials have said that including all hospitals would have driven up premiums because network hospitals agreed to reimbursement rate concessions in exchange for the promise of a certain volume of patients.

During the health law’s first enrollment period, more than 40,000 New Hampshire residents selected health plans, more than twice the target set by the Obama administration. New Hampshire exceeded its target by a greater percentage than any other state in which the federal government operated the insurance market.

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