Uninsured rates on the rise in Pa. and across U.S., underscoring need for health reform

Health Reform Milestone: Consumer Protections Go Into Effect Today
Uninsured rates on the rise in Pa. and across U.S., underscoring need for health reform

HARRISBURG, PA (September 23, 2010) – Today marks a milestone in the long road to reforming the nation’s health care system, as several important consumer protections will take effect on or after this date. No longer will insurance companies be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, set annual or lifetime benefit limits, or cancel health policies when you get sick.

These reforms come at a crucial time for our nation’s health care system. Last week, the Census Bureau recorded the largest single-year increase in the U.S. uninsured rate since the Census began collecting health care data in 1999. Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate also rose significantly.

That fact is not lost on Matt Stetson, 51 of Philadelphia, who after months of lacking health insurance was able to obtain coverage through PA Fair Care, a state-level high-risk pool authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“It’s been a real life saver,” said Stetson, who joined the ranks of the uninsured after his COBRA ran out months ago and he was denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition.

Theresa Mansell of Laverock, Pa., also voiced support for the new consumer protections.

“I am thrilled that my son who is a recent graduate will be able to stay on our plan,” she said. “I am glad that this prevents him from joining the growing number of uninsured in our country”

Today marks the six-month anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. On or after today, several new provisions take affect that will begin to offer hope to many Pennsylvanians who have lost coverage or are in danger of losing coverage:

Young adults will be allowed to stay on their parent’s health plan until the age of 26;
Children under the age of 19 cannot be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions;
New plans must include coverage for preventive services such as cancer screenings, blood pressure and diabetes tests, well-baby and well-child visits, and routine vaccines;

Coverage can no longer be rescinded:

Insurance companies will face a ban on lifetime limits and new restrictions on annual limits;
Consumers will be able to appeal insurance determinations and claims through an external review process.

Last week, the Census Bureau reported that the U.S. uninsured rate jumped by 4.3 million in 2009. In the depth of the recession, 50.7 million Americans were living without health insurance.

The number of uninsured Pennsylvanians under 65 rose by more than 100,000 to a staggering 1.29 million in 2008-09. The state’s uninsured rate climbed to 12.4% from 11.3% in 2006-07. (Survey data is averaged over two years in order to improve the reliability of the state-level estimates.)

“The Census data underscore just how desperately our state and nation need health care reform,” said Antoinette Kraus, an organizer with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network. “Today marks a historic victory for the uninsured in our state and our nation.”

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