My hairdresser proudly showed me a policy he bought for $100 a month, which would cover hospital care. I didn't have the heart to tell him that the hospital care it would cover was a fraction of the real cost.
One of the most heartbreaking stories I ever heard about the individual market came from a woman in Summersville. She had a lung condition, which at some point in her life would require a transplant to save her life. Knowing that someday she would need health insurance, she bought an individual policy and paid a monthly premium for more than a decade. At the point she was ready for a transplant and needed the coverage the most, her insurer stopped doing business in West Virginia. The insurer collected thousands of dollars and left her high and dry with no company willing to insure her.
The reality is that everyday people lose their coverage in the individual market for no good reason. The Affordable Care Act is not the problem; it is the solution. A study released by Families USA in November shows that the Affordable Care Act will give consumers better coverage, and 71 percent will be eligible for Medicaid or substantial subsidies in the new reformed market.
In West Virginia, about 26,000 people, or 2 percent of the state's population, have policies in the individual market. The vast majority of those will find better and more affordable policies in the new health insurance marketplace. It's unfortunate that the web site that is supposed to help direct people to these new and better policies is not functioning as it should be. In the end, however, this is a problem of technology not policy. The technology will be fixed and people will be able to find their way through the system.
In the long run, we will all have greater security against a medical catastrophe. Even people in very high income households, who may pay a little more in their payroll taxes for universal coverage, should know that for their extra tax dollars, they will have increased security because no one can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. People with good employer coverage can lose their job or may want to retire early. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health security is not something they will have to worry about.
We can't go back to a broken system. Let's be adults, give up the political posturing and focus on how the Affordable Care Act can be improved to assure health security for all Americans.
Pore is health policy director for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.