There's a lot at stake for us as our elected officials try to reform healthcare. We should all understand what it means when the newspapers say they are removing this or that requirement from a proposed bill, and since it appears that Congress will continue its efforts toward healthcare reform, I wanted to discuss some of the things that will make or break their efforts, things that will affect you, no matter what condition(s) you have, or even if you have no condition at all. (Read about the first effort to reform Obamacare here.)
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been seven years since Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, was passed. Before that, insurance looked very different than it does today. The main reason for that is that Obamacare mandated that certain things be covered in every plan. One of the things on the table is the removal of all the Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) in an effort to control costs.
This would control costs by severely reducing the number of people covered by insurance. Those people would not see a doctor as often, potentially losing control of their conditions, and would end up going to the more expensive emergency room as a result. (Emergency rooms can’t legally turn patients away, regardless of their ability to pay, and unpaid hospital bills default to the taxpayer.)
How many EHBs have you used over the course of your condition? (I will mark all the ones I’ve used.)
- Outpatient care – all your doctor visits where you don’t have to stay overnight.
- Emergency room visits
- Hospital treatment for inpatient care
- Prenatal and postnatal care -- maternity care preceding and after birth of baby. This is an important one because in the bad old days, pregnancy wasn’t covered at all. Since the majority of insurance policies cover ‘accidents and illness,’ and pregnancy is neither accident nor illness, it didn't qualify. Pre-natal wellness visits, blood tests, recovery, and more were paid for out of pocket. Not to mention that the baby sometimes wasn’t covered for the first 10 days, so that if there was something wrong, it would be classified as a pre-existing condition, which is also not covered.
- Mental health and substance abuse services, drug and alcohol rehab. This is the rule that helps people with opioid addiction and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Prescription drugs – no explanation necessary.
- Rehab and rehabilitation services and devices -- to aid in recovery in case of injury, disability or chronic condition, including physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, psychiatric rehabilitation, and more.
- Lab tests
- Preventive services, including counseling, screenings, and vaccinations and care for managing chronic disease – annual physicals, Pap tests, mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.
- Pediatric services, including dental and vision for children.
That's nine out of 10 for me.
Now the provision that pulls it all together, because even if you have access to all of the EHBs, if they're too expensive, access doesn't matter. The 'community rating' provision of Obamacare says that people with pre-existing conditions don't pay more for coverage than their healthier peers. It says that no one in a set geographical area (community) can be charged more than anyone else in that area for the same amount of healthcare coverage, regardless of circumstances like gender, occupation, industry, weight, claims history, or most important to us, health status (pre-existing conditions). Right now, the only factors an insurance company is allowed to consider are family size, age, geographic location, and tobacco use.
In a relatively short time, these regulations have become important to us. They allow us a higher quality of life. How much more would you have to pay for your condition if the EHBs and community rating provision were eliminated? If you feel strongly about keeping the above provisions, tell the people in charge of the reform effort, and not just on Capitol Hill. Rumor has it, some states are moving forward without Washington.
(Here is a link to Project Vote Smart, which will tell you who works for you, from the president right down to local judges.)