Life before Obamacare

7.2k 32 66 11 4 Colorado Springs, CO

Wed Jan 22, 2014 03:07:42AM
Categories: Obamacare

Back in 2007 when health care reform was a part of Senator Obama's ambitious presidential campaign rhetoric,  my daughter was struggling to find an individual health insurance policy on the open market in Connecticut . Previously she was covered by her university's health insurance plan as a graduate student.  In browsing the internet, her first observation was that the policies were certainly more expensive compared to her previous subsidized group plan, even for high deductible plans, but she did find one with Anthem that she thought she could afford.  The Anthem online application entailed listing pages and pages of her health history going back to her childhood, but she really wasn't concerned about being denied coverage because she had been in excellent health all her life.

After submitting the application and waiting for a few weeks she was surprised that Anthem denied her coverage for a pre-existing condition. What was that pre-existing condition? She had gone to see a chiropractor about her stiff back as a result of spending hours and hours hunched over her computer writing her dissertation.
She thought about blowing Anthem off, but in looking at other insurance company options, one of the first questions that they all asked at the time was, "Have you ever been denied health insurance coverage?"  If she answered yes, then most likely she would be denied coverage with that company as well.  Her only option was to request a review with Anthem, a process that required her to get her chiropractor to write a letter to Anthem explaining that her back condition was minor and temporary, and that there were no lasting effects. Luckily she was eventually covered by Anthem.

My daughter's experience in 2007 was not unique for anyone shopping for insurance in the individual market place at the time. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, "50 to 129 million (19 to 50 percent of) non-elderly Americans have some type of pre-existing health condition." The many horror stories of people having their claims denied after getting sick are well documented in the internet. Some of those people died as a result of being denied coverage when they thought they were covered. Insurance companies meanwhile were making massive profits by denying people's claims, often for some minor unrelated health reason or innocent inaccuracies in their original applications. At the time, as many as one in five, or 25 million non-elderly Americans with a pre-existing condition was uninsured.  It was that cry for help from those so badly affected, including President Obama's own experience with his mother's illness, that inspired Barack Obama to make it central to his proposals for health care reform in his campaign for president in 2007 and 2008.  That promise was delivered with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

Now amongst many Republican proposals to "improve" or rewrite the Affordable Health Care law is a provision that people with pre-existing conditions could keep their insurance, but only if the person's insurance coverage has been continuous for 18 months.  Getting laid off a job with a pre-existing condition and not being able to immediately buy into another affordable policy means that the "continued coverage" requirement would be broken, and most likely the person would no longer be insurable...joining once again a new growing community of people that would be denied health care coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And that pre-existing condition could be something as minor as seeing a chiropractor for a back ailment.
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