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Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013

Understanding Obamacare

The End of Discrimination

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Question: What will Obamacare do for someone who hasn’t had health insurance because of a pre-existing condition?

Answer: The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, brings a number of major protections to consumers and corrections to an imbalanced insurance market. But one of the most important protections is the end of pre-existing-condition discrimination for individuals. Commonly, before reform, insurance companies could charge you more, deny you, drop you or exclude whole body parts based on whether or not any conditions you had were “pre-existing.” "Pre-existing condition" is the term insurance companies use to describe people with, or a history of, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and many other health conditions. Nor is this a rare occurrence: more than 1.3 million Wisconsinites under the age of 65 (about one out of four of us) have already been diagnosed with pre-existing conditions that, without health reform, could lead to denials of coverage or discriminatory rates. And as we age it only gets worse. Just over half of the population between the ages of 55 and 64 have a diagnosed “pre-existing condition.” Being sick or injured should never be a permanent barrier to getting health care, yet the markets allowed this inequity.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, insurance companies cannot discriminate against adults with pre-existing conditions, and right now they are forbidden to do so by law for children under 18. All thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

And if you don’t think this pertains to you, consider this: many insurance companies consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition—a pre-existing condition that, safe to say, runs in most families.

—Kevin Kane, Citizen Action of Wisconsin

The Shepherd Express and Citizen Action of Wisconsin will answer questions about the Affordable Care Act in weeks leading up to its implementation. Got a question? Email editor@shepex.com.

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