If you've lost your health insurance and you aren't old enough for Medicare but you can't buy a private pay replacement plan because you have a health problem, take a look at the federal government's Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan website.
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a stopgap until 2014 when the Affordable Care Act really kicks in, and insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against potential customers with pre-existing conditions. It is administered by either your state or the federal government, if your state decided not to step up.
To qualify for the PCIP, you must have been turned down by an insurance company and been without insurance for six months.
In the last few months, I've helped two women apply. One of them is 58 and has bone cancer; the other is 63 and has Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Both of these women live in Florida and work at low-paying jobs that don't offer insurance. They were both turned down for private-pay comprehensive insurance by the major insurers -- Blue Cross, Aetna and United Healthcare -- because of their pre-existing conditions, and an independent insurance agent also couldn't help them find alternatives. Both are low income but make too much money for Medicaid or related programs.
In Florida, PCIP is administered by the federal government. It costs someone 55 or older $376 a month with a $3,000 deductible and a 20 percent co-pay. Not exactly wonderful health insurance, but lots better than no health insurance at all. And getting it within a couple of weeks after they applied was a huge relief to both women.
I'm writing about this because the legality of the Affordable Care Act -- and the PCIP -- is being debated right now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Florida v. United States Department of Health and Human Services is the first case relating to this issue that the Supreme Court is considering.
Bankrate.com reporter Jay MacDonald is writing about the court challenge. He recently listed the benefits of health care reform that have already accrued to Americans, many of them of particular value to older people. If you're on the fence on this is issue, read MacDonald's reports.
It's hard for me to understand why this issue is so polarizing. How can reasonable people argue that providing access to affordable health care for everyone isn't the right thing to do?