A new study by the Commonwealth Fund suggests that gaps in health coverage likely will be reduced once the Affordable Care Act kicks in fully in 2014.
The study showed that more than one-third of Americans were uninsured for one month or longer between 2004 and 2007, and 23 million of them lost insurance more than once.
What happens frequently is that people who lose their jobs also lose their health insurance. Since most people can’t afford to continue to pay for their coverage after they lose their jobs, their coverage ends immediately. Even if they find new jobs right away, most employers make new hires wait three months before they’re eligible for health insurance.
Among those with family incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, 64.2 percent of adults and 59.5 percent of children were uninsured for at least one month.
Once the Affordable Care Act kicks in, people who don’t get coverage at work can buy insurance at affordable rates in the health insurance exchanges, and if they’re below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, they will get federal assistance to afford coverage.
Some 20 million people still won’t have coverage, though, and most of those will be the poorest Americans, homeless people, people with psychiatric illnesses — people who need help the most. And if states opt out of the Medicaid expansion, even more of the neediest people will fall through the cracks.
But people who are self-employed or who can’t get insurance from an employer will be able to get coverage more affordably. And their insurance will pay for screening tests such as mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate cancer screenings and more with no out-of-pocket costs to the consumer, even if the person has a policy with a $10,000 deductible.
Insurance will be a lot less expensive for women, who won’t be forced to pay up to 50 percent more for coverage just for being female.
People with pre-existing conditions like childhood asthma or a birth defect will be able to buy insurance — my son died because a birth defect is a pre-existing condition.
Many of the gaps in coverage will close in 2014 — a number of them have closed already. But until everyone has access to quality care, we still have work to do.