As we have traveled around the state for the last several years discussing health reform, again and again we hear from people frightened of losing their insurance coverage. The problem is that many of these folks have been diagnosed with a medical condition that brands them as uninsurable for life. In 2014 that worry will go away.
Currently, if you are diagnosed with a medical condition and seek insurance coverage you can be turned away or charged thousands of dollars per month for a policy. Health reform put some immediate changes in place as stop gaps for people with these so called pre-existing conditions. New money expanded our state’s high risk pool, called Inclusive Health, which gives people with pre-existing conditions a new coverage option. Young people can now stay on a parent’s insurance plan until age 26. This helps bridge potential gaps in coverage. For someone with a pre-existing condition such a gap can prove financially catastrophic. Children can no longer be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. And, starting in 2014, insurers will not be allowed to charge more or deny coverage due to a previous medical diagnosis.
Who will this help? Families took a close look and determined that more than 2 million North Carolinians will get a new sense of security from reform. Nearly one-in-four people in almost every county have been diagnosed with a pre-existing condition. In Wake County, 186,800 people have faced such a diagnosis. In Mecklenburg it’s 190,700. In Robeson County more than 30 percent of the population lives with a pre-existing condition.
These numbers are conservative. This report only shows people diagnosed with or treated for a specific set of medical conditions in 2009. That means the uninsured or those with problems accessing the health care system are undercounted. But this report does show the dramatic scope of the problem in our state. And it shows the tremendous relief health reform will bring to millions of families when it is fully implemented in 2014.