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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

A blog by IllinoisHealthMatters.org

Monday, August 13, 2012

Who Has Pre-existing Conditions in Illinois?

A new study by Families USA has delved deep into Obamacare's patient protection provisions, which prevent anyone from being turned down or charged exorbitant rates for a pre-existing condition.

According to the study, over one in four Illinoisans under the age of 65 (the age where they become eligible for Medicare) have a pre-existing condition that could result in denial of coverage prior to the exchanges coming into effect in 2014. That's nearly 2.9 million people!

People with pre-existing conditions live in all counties in Illinois: the proportion of people affected ranges from 24.5 percent in Lake County to 31.1 percent in Jefferson, Marion, Randolph, and Washington Counties. One common factor is that pre-existing conditions tend to become more prevalent as we age: nearly half (49.2 percent) of adults aged 55 to 64 have a pre-existing condition that could lead to a denial of coverage. Right now, the presence of a pre-existing condition at any point in your life can be a reason for health insurance companies to discriminate against you.

To me, the implications are very clear: Obamacare gives people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable insurance. In fact, 59.5% of people with pre-existing conditions in Illinois are within the threshold (below 400% FPL) where either subsidies will be available to help them purchase health insurance or they will qualify for Medicaid. That's a tremendous relief for anyone without or in danger of losing their health care.

Also, as Families USA discusses in the study, not knowing what can happen with you or your family members' health insurance can result in "job lock" where one keeps an inferior job for fear of losing their coverage. Implementation of Obamacare will relieve that fear, and it could even lead to more people taking risks that were impossible before, such as starting a new business. This can lead to a more natural flow of the labor market and towards more job creation, giving Illinois an economic boost.

These are real benefits that people with pre-existing conditions, like me, can look forward to in 2014. In the meantime, IPXP, Illinois's temporary pre-existing conditions plan for the uninsured that was created and subsidized by Obamacare, is doing an incredible job as a stopgap measure to help us get through the next year and a half. I encourage you to spread the word about IPXP to ensure that everyone who needs to can take advantage of these benefits. As we can see from the Families study, there are a lot of Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions who have the chance to take advantage of a great program right now.

David Zoltan,
Guest Blogger, Illinois Health Matters

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