From the Associated Press:
High Risk Pool
A state-sponsored insurance pool created to offer coverage to the riskiest patients started this week, and administrators are seeking to enroll more residents who have been pushed out of the private market. Only about 500 residents since October have applied for the North Carolina Health Insurance Risk Pool, with a couple hundred approved for coverage. But the program's executive director Michael Keough said enrollments have been accelerating. "These are tough times," Keough said. "People are out of work. People are doing what they can to survive. This is a particularly timely thing - a godsend for people who need it." Officials initially projected that some 14,000 people would have the insurance 10 years from now and up to 4,000 people would join the first year. Keough said he thinks up to 180,000 people would be eligible in the state.
People can qualify if they don't have employer coverage and can't get private insurance without paying an exorbitant amount. It's a plan targeted particularly for those with high-risk health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or hemophilia. Premiums are set at about 150 percent to 200 percent of a healthy person's private insurance. The state subsidizes the program from a few sources, mostly a tax on health insurance premiums and an annual cash withdrawal from the State Health Plan for public service workers. It's starting operations with a $5 million grant from Health and Wellness Trust Fund. North Carolina lawmakers approved the health insurance pool in 2007. It will only cover a small portion of the estimated 1.4 million people in North Carolina who are uninsured. About three dozen other states already offer such plans. (Mike Baker, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/30/08).