KANSAS CITY, MO (KCUR) - A state health insurance option for people with pre-existing health conditions has once again gotten cheaper. In what state insurance officials are calling a significant reduction, Missouri's high risk insurance pool is cutting premiums by nearly 25 percent.
The federally funded program is designed for people with chronic diseases who've either been flat-out denied health coverage or charged an extremely high rate.
So far, about 550 people have enrolled in the program, but it has the capacity to ensure up to 2500.
Travis Ford, with the Missouri Department of Insurance, says cost may be a factor in whether people sign up.
"This is not free insurance, it's not cheap insurance, it's for people who can pay a full premium," says Ford. "But at least it's the right to buy insurance."
Ford says the program's premiums, or what people pay for a policy on a monthly basis, are based on a combination of federal rules and private health insurance trends in the state. He says determining these premium rates and ensuring they're as affordable as possible is an ongoing and challenging process.
"That means continual number crunching and analysis," says Ford. "And that's difficult in Missouri because health insurance rates are not regulated. And so health insurance companies are not required to file rates with the state."
Ford says in an effort to make coverage more accessible, the high risk program recently got federal approval to cut premiums by 23 percent. That's on top of a 25 percent rate reduction in February.
Ford says the latest cut could save a person an estimated $500 to $2000 a year, depending on one's age and deductible.
To be eligible for the program, a person must be without insurance for at least six months and have a pre-existing health condition.
The program was created under the federal health law last year, and is slated to phase out once insurance companies can no longer deny people coverage in 2014.
Elana Gordon, KCUR
Photo: Carolen Collins looks over the application to Missouri's new high risk insurance pool. Denied coverage in the private market, she recently enrolled in the program.