CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Insurance Department announced Friday it has found a way around Republican legislative efforts to block the state from spending a $5 million grant educating consumers about the federal health care overhaul law.

In a letter to the state Health Exchange Advisory Board, Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny wrote that the New Hampshire Health Plan, a quasi-government entity, is applying for the $5.4 million grant awarded to the state, which lawmakers did not include in the department’s budget. Republicans have fought against New Hampshire implementing the law.

Sevigny said the department worked with the federal government to identify a group besides the department to receive the grant. He said the department will discuss the grant’s status with the board at its Aug. 9 meeting.

The New Hampshire Health Plan board voted last month to seek federal approval to accept the money and do the outreach once the state took the necessary steps to decline the money, Sevigny said.

As New Hampshire moves toward implementing the health care overhaul law, the federal government is deciding which insurance plans are qualified for sale in the state.

Under the law, new insurance marketplaces will offer individuals and their families a choice of private health plans resembling what workers at major companies already get. The government will help many middle-class households pay their premiums, while low-income people will be referred to safety net programs they might qualify for.

Enrollment starts Oct. 1, with coverage taking effect Jan. 1. After that, virtually everyone in the country will be required by law to have health insurance or face fines.

Beth Roberts, chairwoman of New Hampshire Health Plan, wrote the advisory board Friday that the group will conduct “New Hampshire specific outreach and education about the marketplace, the insurance options and available financial assistance.”

She noted that the group has a long history of operating federal and state programs for the uninsured, including the state high risk pool, which provides insurance to individuals denied coverage because of their health status. The high risk pool will be phased out Jan. 1 when coverage becomes available under the new federal law.

Susan Smith, executive director of New Hampshire Voices for Health, said her group is pleased, believing a locally controlled and designed effort would provide consumers information and assistance.

The Insurance Department this week submitted its recommendations for which plans should be offered in the new online insurance markets, or exchanges. The details and rates aren’t being made public yet, but Sevigny said he’s confident consumers will have good options when enrollment opens Oct. 1.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has said it is the only company planning to offer health insurance in New Hampshire.

While the last Legislature passed a law prohibiting the state from setting up its own exchanges, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan decided in February to have the state partner with the federal government to manage the health plans and to provide consumer assistance. The decision by the first-term Democrat didn’t sit well with Republicans, who have blocked or slowed several efforts to implement the federal law.


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