Report finds 25 percent of Kansans under age 65 getting new health care protections
- on July 25, 2012
One in four Kansans under age 65 will receive new protections under the Affordable Care Act because insurance companies will no longer be able to deny them coverage based on their pre-existing conditions.
Insurance companies also won’t be able charge a higher premium or sell a policy that excludes coverage of needed services.
These protections begin in January 2014, but children with pre-existing conditions already are protected through the federal law, also referred to as Obamacare.
“For people who need health care the most, the Affordable Care Act provides extraordinarily important protections that by and large have not existed before,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a national consumer health group that says it is nonpartisan.
Families USA released a handful of reports Wednesday that looked at how many people have been diagnosed with a pre-existing condition, like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart disease, and could potentially be denied health insurance or forced to pay higher costs.
It estimated that 64.8 million Americans had such a condition. That includes:
• 1.4 million Missouri residents.
• 627,000 Kansas residents.
• 33,200 Douglas and Miami county residents. The report provided data for 15 areas in Kansas.
According to Families USA, these are conservative estimates because it only looked at 69 conditions and there are more that could result in denial of coverage. Additionally, there could be people who have a condition, but it hasn’t been diagnosed yet.
During a teleconference call, Bunnie Gronborg, of Festus, Mo., talked about her struggles in getting health insurance coverage after leaving a library job because she had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, a condition that wasn’t included in the report.
She said she had no idea that she would be repeatedly denied coverage because of a condition that she hardly thought twice about because she took a pill and it was under control.
Gronborg said she hasn’t been to her primary care doctor in years for a wellness exam, mammogram or pap smear because she can’t afford it. She also has been closely monitoring a lesion on her face.
“I have spent the last several years worrying every single day, worrying that something could happen to me,” she said.
That’s about to change in seven days because she will be eligible to receive Medicare, a government health insurance program for those 65 and older and for younger people with disabilities.
“I just received my Medicare card last week in the mail and, believe me, I am doing the hallelujah dance because I only have seven more days to worry and wait,” she said.
She has already made an appointment for next month with her primary care doctor.
But for her four sons, who range from 32 to 39, the worry will continue until Jan. 1, 2014. All of them have congenitally high blood pressure. Two of them are carpenters and have lost their jobs and do not have health insurance. One of them has a herniated disk and hasn’t sought treatment. The other one had digestive issues that caused him to seek treatment in a hospital emergency room and that ultimately caused him to go into bankruptcy.
“When you are uninsured, you literally make the decision to not go to the doctor,” Gronborg said. “These types of decisions are being made all over the United States every single day.”
She’s heard them over and over as vice president of Missouri Health Care For All, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization that advocates for access to affordable, high-quality care for all Missourians.
She said a working couple who lived across the street from her also filed bankruptcy because they had a child with cystic fibrosis and the insurance company capped the amount of money that it would provide for the child’s condition.
“That can happen no more because of the Affordable Care Act, and it won’t happen to adults after 2014,” she said. “The Affordable Care Act was given the title the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, and often patient protection is overlooked and that is what we are talking about today.”
Pollack said he thought the federal legislation cleared its biggest hurdle when the Supreme Court upheld the law.
“It is possible that the November elections might change the political status of all this, but, barring that, I think the Affordable Care Act is in a stable position,” he said. “I think the biggest threat has now been passed, but we will see if the elections have any effect on changing any of this.”