Changes will make Federal insurance for pre-existing conditions cheaper

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It's now going to be easier and cheaper for you to get health insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. The federal government is making changes to get more people to join their health insurance option.

The American Cancer Society in Knoxville supports people from their diagnosis through their treatment, and Michael Holtz believes the changes to federal health care, will actually give some more hope for the future.

Michael said, "We knew from through our research several years ago that people who don't have access to insurance and don't have good insurance, die of cancer."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is making several changes to the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), and making it easier to qualify.

Beth Uselton is a patient advocate with the Tennessee Health Care Campaign and she said, "For many decades people with pre-existing conditions were often locked out of insurance or small group insurance market."

Uselton said these are important steps to get insurance to the people who need it the most. "The irony is that so many people who have high health needs, or already have a medical condition, are some of the people least likely to be covered by the private insurance market."

Starting July First, the monthly cost in Tennessee will drop by more than 18-percent. So, a 35-year-old will pay as little as $239, and someone who's 55 or older can get coverage for at least $425 a month.

Holtz said, "We're encouraged that more outreach and the lower premiums will bring more people into the program."

The application process will be easier as well. You'll just need a letter from a doctor or nurse stating you have a medical condition, disability, or illness. Applicants will no longer have to wait on an insurance company to send a denial letter.

Uselton said, "We believe the fewer barriers there are to coverage, the better it is for all of us."

There is one stipulation Uselton wanted to see removed. The PCIP will still require you to be without any insurance for at least 6 months.

To reach more people who might need this coverage, the Department of Health and Human Services will begin paying insurance agents and brokers for successfully connecting eligible people with the PCIP program. This initiative will start in the Fall.

As of the end of March, only 255 Tennesseans are using the Federal plan, and they hope the changes will help more people with pre-existing conditions get insurance.

These changes are a part of the Affordable Care Act and are meant to act as a bridge to 2014, when the health care reform will prohibit insurers from denying coverage to anyone.

The Department of Health and Human Services says the $5-billion allotted for the program is secure, despite political fighting over health care reform as a whole.

The State of Tennessee also has their health care option for people with a pre-existing conditions called Access TN.

The American Cancer Society has a health insurance assistance service to guide you through finding coverage, just call 1-800-227-2345.

On a National level the changes will drop the PCIP cost up to 40-percent in 18 states, and the eligibility standards will be eased in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

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