Louisiana won’t run high-risk pools

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 1, 2010

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana officials have notified the Obama administration that the state will not participate in high-risk pools set up under the new federal health care law.

The decision by Gov. Bobby Jindal and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon means the federal government — not the state — will be in charge of administering the health care plans for people with pre-existing medical conditions who can’t buy insurance on the open market.

In their notification letter, Jindal and Donelon cited potential costs to the state when federal dollars run out in a few years.

‘‘Without definitive answers as to how the funding stream will be implemented and sustained for the new high risk pools, it seems imprudent for the state, given our current budgetary challenges, to take this potential risk,’’ they wrote in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The new health care law will bar insurers from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions starting in 2014. Until then, the law sets aside $5 billion to cover the uninsurable population through high-risk pools and leaves it up to each state to decide whether it wants to operate the pools or leave that responsibility with federal government.

Louisiana already operates a high-risk health plan, which is paid for by premiums from policyholders and taxes charged to health insurers.

State Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said the new federal high-risk plan would operate alongside the state plan, but would offer lower premiums and a set of benefits prescribed by the federal law.