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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thanks to health reform, more Americans are now covered

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

As of September 23, 2010, no child can be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition and parents with sick children across the United States breathe a huge sigh of relief. But what options do adults with pre-existing conditions have? We’re glad you asked.

One of the main goals of the Affordable Care Act is to ensure that every American has access to affordable health care. But because our health care system is so complex, different provisions of the new law must be rolled out at different times to ensure a smooth transition in the insurance market, preventing any unintended consequences to consumers. 

In 2014, no adult American can be denied access to affordable insurance just because they have a pre-existing condition. But they’re not left in the lurch until then. The Affordable Care Act created new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans, run by either a state or the federal government, where uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions can purchase insurance before 2014.

HHS announced earlier this month that, as of the end of March, more than 18,000 Americans have signed up for coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP). That’s 18,000 newly covered people with at least one pre-existing condition who did not have access to quality health coverage before the Affordable Care Act took effect. And, due to new outreach activities from the federal government, that’s nearly 6,000 more people than were covered in PCIP just two months earlier. With more outreach efforts from the government and from regular people, who can tell their friends and neighbors about the program and its website ( www.pcip.gov) the number of Americans with pre-existing conditions who finally obtain health coverage will continue to grow.

And why is this cause for celebration?

Many illnesses that are considered pre-existing conditions are not only expensive to treat, but could escalate into emergencies if not treated properly. Illnesses like diabetes, asthma, and, other chronic conditions require consistent medical monitoring. If people with conditions like these are uninsured and go without seeing a doctor for too long, their health problems could be exacerbated and they could end up in the emergency room, where their health care costs will eventually be passed on to those of us with insurance.

To be frank, it’s in everyone’s interest that every American has access to quality, affordable health care.

Currently, in 45 states, Americans can be denied insurance for any number of “pre-existing conditions.” If a new mom has had a c-section, she could be denied. If a child was born with asthma, he or she could be denied. Even survivors of cancer could be turned down for insurance.

Luckily, PCIP provides a bridge for Americans who, up until now, had been left with few or no options for coverage. And it is giving more than 18,000 Americans the peace of mind that they have a safety net until January 1, 2014, when no insurers will be able to turn them away.