Before health reform, health insurance companies would engage in a number of practices aimed at reducing losses like denying coverage to individuals because of a “pre-existing condition,” some of which included common health experiences for women like C-Sections. Insurance companies were also found to drop coverage for customers once they became ill.
These unjust practices served not only to destabilize the functioning and trust in the health insurance market, but also Latinas’ health. Health reform establishes consumer protections which will increase confidence in the health insurance market and lead to better and more just health outcomes.
The Patient Bill of Rights went into effect on September 23, 2010 and prohibits insurance companies from dropping insurance coverage for children after determination of a “pre-existing condition,” imposing annual and lifetime dollar limits on coverage, and blocking access to emergency care. The Bill allows individuals to choose their doctors and appeal insurance coverage decisions.
Additionally, the ACA created the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), a temporary program to provide health insurance to those with pre-existing conditions who have been uninsured for six months. The federal government is currently providing this insurance for 23 states and the District of Columbia and the remaining states are issuing their own programs.
The PCIP program is temporary and will be phased out in 2014, when all insurance companies will be barred from dropping or denying coverage to individuals (children are protected as of September 23, 2010) based on a “pre-existing condition.”
Why is this protection important for Latinas, their families and their communities?
Consumer protections are especially important for Latinas, who already face a myriad of barriers to accessing health insurance.
According to a recent report by Families USA, more than one in six non-elderly Latinos (16.9 percent) have a condition that, without the protections created under health care reform, could lead to a denial of coverage. The FamiliesUSA reports acknowledge, however, that these statistics are based off Latinos’ rate of diagnosis with pre-existing conditions, and Latinos are more than twice as likely as non-Latino adults to lack a usual course of care to make that diagnosis.
These protections will be immensely important as states create their insurance exchanges and Latinas buy health insurance in these new markets. Latinas and their families, some of whom will be gaining health insurance for the first time, cannot be denied coverage if they are sick or have a ‘pre-existing condition.’
Please join us back on Monday March 19th for another post in 20 DAYS of ACA.