The race to sign up West Virginians for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is commonly referred to these days, has begun. I applaud the efforts of many groups educating individuals about the new health-care options available to them under ACA. This is a great opportunity, but a big decision that will have significant impact on people's lives.
Before I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease over three years ago, I didn't concern myself with the specifics of my health insurance policy other than my co-pay and deductible. However, I have learned that the details provided in my health insurance plan determine, in some form or another, my ability to live an active life.
I hope that individuals, particularly those of us with life-changing and life-threatening diseases, will ask the right questions when signing up for a plan through the Health Exchange:
1. Is my doctor and hospital in the plan? In my case, I go to a movement disorder specialist, and she is one of only two such specialists in the state. My health has considerably improved since I became her patient.
2. Will my prescription drugs be carried on the preferred drug list? In some cases, generic drugs are fine, but I take two brand name drugs that my doctor prescribes that either aren't available in generic form or work better for me.
3. What will be the cost of my prescription drugs? It's one thing to have them available, but can I afford them?
4. What will be my deductible? For some, who are very young and in good health, a $5,000 deductible is just what they need. But, for those who are older and in need of medical care, the cheapest plan will be like having no plan at all.
These are questions that I hope "navigators" are asking people as they make their health insurance decisions.
If you are in the market for one of the three plans available in West Virginia through the Health Exchange, please slow down, there is no rush to sign up. You have until Dec. 15 to choose a plan for the Jan. 1 start-up. It is important to realize that the health plan you choose today cannot be changed until January 2015.
In just three years since my diagnosis, my ability to walk, talk and think have been challenged, and will likely deteriorate in the future. However, with the right health insurance plan that affords me access to good doctors, therapists and the right prescription regimen, I have a chance to lead a normal, productive life.Manahan, a Charleston businessman, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2010 and has started a local support group for those suffering with the disease. He can be reached at Mana...@aol.com.