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New Hampshire
New Hampshire
In May, New Hampshire's legislature passed the HealthFirst initiative, which took effect in July. The program is still in its formative stages, according to insurance commissioner Roger Sevigny - benefit design and actuarial work is ongoing. The goal is to create a more affordable health plan for small businesses with 50 employees or fewer that are already providing insurance.

"We want to stop the leakage," says Sevigny, who adds the state also hopes to attract new small business participants. The legislation requires every insurance carrier covering more than 1,000 people in New Hampshire to offer a more affordable plan to small businesses, and sets the base rate for monthly premiums per employee at no more than 10% of the statewide median wage. For 2009, that is about $310, Sevigny says.

Individual employers won't always get the same base rate, because New Hampshire allows insurance companies to adjust premiums for factors such as the employer's industry, the size of the group being insured, and the age demographic of that group - if a majority of the employees are in their 50s and 60s, for example, the business's premium will be higher than New Hampshire's base rate. Yet even with those variations in price, the state believes participants will save at least 15% off what they are paying currently. HealthFirst also hopes to control premium costs by incorporating wellness initiatives such smoking cessation and blood sugar management programs, which will offer cash incentives for participation.

The plan will be available to small businesses in October. Adrienne Rupp, spokeswoman for the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, says that "although it's no silver bullet," the plan should save small businesses a significant amount of money.

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LAST UPDATE: Jan 28 2009 | 9:53 AM ET
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