Patients with preexisting conditions helped in new health care law
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04/06/10 Seán Kinane
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U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D, center) voted for the health care reform law. Breast cancer survivor Sharon Williams (right) and American Cancer Society's chief operating officer Donna McCullough (left) also support the law.


photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

The new health care reform law signed last month will not cover all Americans. But one large group will get some relief. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. That helps Sharon Williams, whose coverage was dropped after she survived breast cancer 19 years ago.

*They showed me a list of different types of diseases that they covered. And prostate cancer and, I think colon cancer was on the list, but there was no breast cancer. And I remember becoming really, really angry, and I said, “Look, I have something growing inside of me that’s going to kill me. Somebody help me.”*

The American Cancer Society favored provisions in the health care law that forbid insurance companies from denying patients with pre-existing conditions. During a press conference at the American Cancer Society’s office in Tampa this morning, their chief operating officer, Donna McCullough, called the law “a major step forward … to reduce cancer.”

Ninety days after enactment, uninsured people with a pre-existing condition will be able to apply for coverage in a high-risk pool in each state. And six months after enactment, health plans will be prohibited from placing lifetime caps on coverage, and annual limits will be tightly restricted to insure access to needed medical care. Dependent children will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance policy up to the age of 26, and health plans will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. This is important legislation that will make a major difference in the fight against cancer.

Karen Atherton, a program manager at the American Lung Association, praised prevention initiatives in the law.

The Family Justice Center of Hillsborough County’s executive director, Nikki Daniels, said insurance companies in the states that consider domestic violence a pre-existing medical condition will no longer be able to deny victims coverage.

So this law not only helps protect those women in those eight states that consider domestic violence a pre-existing condition, but it can help change the issue of domestic violence across the country for all women who are experiencing this issue.

Tampa-area U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is pleased the law forbids insurance companies from dropping coverage when a policyholder gets sick.

Now, under the health reform law that—private insurance companies will no longer be able to cancel your coverage when you get sick.

Castor says there will be meaningful improvements in the lives of Florida families because of the health care reform law.

An emphasis on preventive care will save lives, and it will save money down the road. Also, for all of these families throughout our community that are working hard to pay their premiums and co-pays, now the law will require that 85 percent of those co-payments and premiums actually go to health services—and not exorbitant CEO salaries, and huge profits for the health insurance companies.

But will insurance companies just raise the rates of clients who have pre-existing conditions when they are no longer allowed to deny coverage? Castor says no.

The health reform law now says you cannot discriminate, meaning that you cannot charge higher rates if you have a pre-existing condition—or if you’re a woman. Because oftentimes, health insurance companies will just charge females more because we get pregnant; sometimes we have C-sections; we have other health issues. And they would, they would discriminate based on sex. That is outlawed now under the bill. So this is a, this is a huge step for families.

All that leads breast cancer survivor Sharon Williams to reiterate her support for the new health care law.

This health care reform bill is very, very important. It’s dear to my heart, because I have a pre-existing condition. And there are millions of people out there that have a pre-existing condition that are being denied, as we speak. And it’s just not right. We need to value human life, first and foremost. More than anything, life is important.

Previous WMNF coverage of health care legislation: An examination of the Health Care Reform Law

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