Sacramento debates health insurance reform


Caroline Cunningham of Studio City has lupus and glaucoma. She could never buy health insurance on the individual market because of her pre-existing conditions.

"I had to pay for medicines myself, doctor visits myself; it just became impossible," Cunningham said.

President Obama's federal healthcare reform act helped her because she was able to pay for coverage as part of a new high risk pool for sick people like her. But the program is only temporary until the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014, when roughly 250,000 Californians who don't have employer-based insurance have to go buy it.

Cunningham fears no one will want her and those considered too expensive.

"In essence, they're blamed and black-listed for having a pre-existing condition," Cunningham said.

With Cunningham's testimony about her experience, the Assembly Health Committee approved Assm. Bill Monning's, D-Carmel, measure that bans insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Insurers don't like the proposal as written because if the individual mandate is struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court they'll end up with a pool of just sick people. They say healthy people also need to pay into the pool to make insurance work.

"People being insured use a lot of healthcare services and the other people increasingly don't buy coverage knowing that if they ever need it, they buy it at the last minute," California Association of Health Plans spokesperson Patrick Johnston said.

Cunningham is happy she made the trip to the Capitol.

"We need help; we don't need to be discriminated against," Cunningham said.

This proposal also prevents insurers from basing premiums on how healthy or how old a person is.

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