The Central Valley Business Times, an online California newspaper, recently reported that as part of national health care reform, California has opened enrollment in a state-wide, pre-existing condition insurance plan. Those eligible to apply for the insurance are residents of the state who haven’t had health insurance in over six months and who have either been denied coverage because of a pre-existing disabling condition or who have been offered coverage by the state’s Major Risk Medical Insurance Program, but at an increased premium.
The program is designed to cover individuals during the period of time between now and 2014 when insurers can no longer decline people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher rates. California expects to insure more than 20,000 people under the new program, which takes advantage of federal funds available for this purpose.
In all the saber-rattling attending the mid-term elections, Republicans are vowing to overturn the Administration’s national health care reform legislation, although it is unlikely they will have the votes to do so. Those in favor of the legislation hope that by the time Republicans gain control of both houses and the executive branch in years to come, the American public will see the benefits of the legislation and will oppose any repeal.
How Does National Health Care Reform Affect the Disabled?
If you are disabled and you lose your job, it is likely you will have difficulty finding another job. In a poor economy, there are fewer jobs and more competition for the jobs that do exist. When an employer is hiring, he or she naturally looks to find the most economical person to fill the need. A disabled person, especially an older disabled person, is not an economical choice in the eyes of an employer. Therefore, employers are much less likely to hire someone who needs disability accommodation and who will certainly put the company’s health insurance to use. Although this reasoning constitutes discrimination, it is a real factor in a disabled person’s job search. For disabled individuals who lose their jobs and cannot get another, even reasonably priced and accessible health care may be beyond their reach.
For the disabled job-seeker, no employer also means no access to group health insurance. Group health insurance is important, first because the disabled worker will be accepted for coverage and second because group premiums are so much less than individual premiums. Before these practices become illegal in 2014, disabled people applying for individual health insurance will usually be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions or will be charged such a high premium they cannot afford to pay it. If a disabled worker is denied coverage, some states offer “high risk health insurance pools”; however such pools, when they exists, charge very high premiums which places coverage out of the reach of most people.
While health care reform cannot help the person who has neither income nor savings, it can do wonders for the person who has even a limited ability to pay. For example, affordable and available health insurance would make it possible for the disabled person who has lost a corporate job to work for himself or herself and remain insured. Then, in the future, if the disability becomes so severe that this person needs to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, he or she will have that all important unbroken medical history to support the disability claim.
An affordable state health insurance program like the one being offered in California can be a guarantee that you can continue seeing your doctors even if you lose your job and must live off savings or reduced income. Being able to keep medical coverage and maintain an unbroken medical record can help you obtain Social Security disability benefits when you need them.