ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri is lowering the rates on the state's new high-risk health insurance pool because fewer people than expected are taking advantage of the program.
The insurance pool was created for people with pre-existing medical conditions who can't afford or obtain their own coverage. It is funded through premiums and federal grants of $81 million for Missouri.
Only 250 people had signed up since July, and the program was funded for 1,000 applicants in its first year.
In response to the low turnout, the state is reducing rates by 25 percent, effective Feb. 1. The new rates will be from $178 to $780 a month, depending on the age and deductible. The state offers three available plans with comprehensive coverage and variable deductions.
"The demand for the program has not been what we've expected," said state insurance director John Huff. "We found out if we offered more plans, we could bring down the premiums."
The program is part of the federal health care overhaul that gave funds to each state last year to create a high-risk insurance pool. The pools are intended to help high-risk people until 2014, when insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny or overcharge people for coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
"Thankfully it will allow us to have affordable coverage," Huff said. "We'll see if this reboots interest in the plan."
The people who have already joined Missouri's insurance pool will get the discounted rates, he said.
About 734,000 people in Missouri are uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.