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July 25, 2012
TOPEKA More than 565,000 Kansans between the ages of 19 and 65 have one or more pre-existing medical conditions that could lead to their being denied health insurance coverage between now and Jan. 1, 2014.
“That’s when, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to adults who have a pre-existing condition,” said Anna Lambertson, executive director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition.
Under the federal health reform law, insurers also will not be allowed to charge someone with a pre-existing condition more than they would charge someone without a pre-existing condition.
According to a Families USA report, “"Worry No More: Kansans with Pre-Existing Conditions Are Protected by the Health Care Law," released Wednesday, the 10 most common pre-existing conditions were mental illness, obesity, lung disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, liver disease, angina, and substance abuse.
The report was designed to call attention to consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act.
"The new data shines a spotlight on how the ACA is helping Kansans," Lambertson said. "More than one in four Kansans can now breathe a sigh of relief because they will no longer be denied coverage based on an existing health issue."
The health reform law already prohibits insurers from denying coverage to children, ages 0 to 19, with pre-existing conditions.
In Kansas, roughly 54,700 children (0 to 17) and 59,000 young adults (18 to 24) have one or more pre-existing conditions.
Almost one of every two adults between 55 and 64 has a pre-existing condition.
Numbers cited in the report were based on 2009 data included in the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, a national compilation of health care expenditures done by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. Kansas among the 26 states that challenged the law. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, has said he will do nothing to implement the law until after the November elections in anticipation of Republican victories and a possible repeal of the law. The law's opponents have said it will cost too much and expand the government's role in health care.
Harry Kass, an Overland Park man, said the findings in the Families USA report were no surprise to him. He lost his employer-sponsored health insurance in 2001, shortly after being diagnosed with leukemia.
“I was able stay on COBRA, but the payments were ridiculous – like $800 a month, just for me,” he said.
Kass said the bills from two years’ of chemotherapy and 200 blood transfusions caused him to file bankruptcy.
He’s now enrolled in a federal insurance plan that covers people with pre-existing conditions through Jan. 1, 2014.
Kass, 51, said he’s now cancer-free.
“I wouldn’t say it (Affordable Care Act) is perfect –nothing is perfect,” he said. “But at least it gives working people some kind of security, access to some kind of structure.”
The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy making environment. Find more about the News Service at khi.org/newsservice or contact us at (785) 783-2529.