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Health care changes begin to go into effect

By Staff | Jul 3, 2010

Certain components of the health care reform bill are in effect.
The controversial, far-sweeping legislation was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March, and includes a number of initiatives that will be implemented between now and 2014.
One new resource that is available starting July 1 is a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan — PCIP — which provides insurance for those with a pre-existing medical condition who haven’t had insurance in the last six or more months. It has often been referred to as the “high risk pool.”
Another available resource for the uninsured and underinsured is the unveiling of healthcare.gov, the federal government’s one stop website to describe new policies under healthcare reform and where to get services.
The Community Health Action Information Network (CHAIN), a statewide advocacy organization, estimates that 30,000 Floridians have been denied insurance because they had pre-existing conditions. Broader estimates indicate that over 3 million people living in Florida are uninsured.
During the drafting of the Affordable Care Act, legislators voiced their concerns about people with pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease or certain types of cancer, who were being denied coverage by their insurance companies. And now they can take advantage of PCIP plan before gaining access to a national health marketplace called the “Exchange” sometime in 2014.
Florida leaders decided not to join the PCIP (pcip.org), but it is still available to Florida residents through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Everything is being administered by the HHS, Florida doesn’t have a role in it,” said Laura Goodhue, executive director of CHAIN. “People who have been excluded from insurance because of pre-existing conditions can buy a plan they can afford.”
Goodhue said the PCIP is a first step in dealing with the high need throughout Florida.
Florida remains one of the only states without an active “high risk pool.” The Florida Comprehensive Health Association was formed in 1983 but was closed to new enrollment in 1991. Only a few hundred people remain in the system, but other Floridians have few options if their provider denies them because of a pre-existing condition.
By 2014 no insurance company will be able to deny a person for having a pre-existing condition, and the PCIP program was created as a transition until such time as the law goes into effect. Only 20 states have implemented PCIP so far, after being asked by the HHS approximately one month ago.
Floridians who join PCIP do pay premiums for their health care. Premium rates aren’t available until July 15, according to the official website, but estimates for a 50-year-old Florida resident is between $552 and $675 per year.
Curtis Hamilton, a local advocacy organizer for AARP, said the pre-existing condition issue was one of the integral parts of healthcare reform.
“The number of people who have the need for insurance, and have a pre-existing condition, was one of the key reasons health insurance (reform) was passed,” said Hamilton. “There were so many thousands of people.”
He said AARP is also pleased that some 32 million people without insurance will get it under the reform bill.