by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
July 1, 2010
BRADENTON, Fla., July 2, 2010 -- "Affordable" health care? Maybe. Maybe not. The government doesn't seem to know.
The federal government is moving forward to implement insurance policies for people with previous conditions under the Affordable Health Care Act, granting $5 billion to start up the new program. But the operators who handle calls about the plan in Washington say they know nothing of plans to provide the high-risk insurance to people who can't afford the premiums, estimated to be between $500 and nearly $1,000 a month, the American Reporter has learned.
In two conversations Friday with an operator and her supervisor, the government's health agency staff said they had "no details" concerning the availability of the insurance for people who cannot afford the premiums.
A supervisor contacted by the American Reporter said she was certain that a letter of acceptance or disapproval letter that will be sent in response to people who have sent in applications will address the cost and affordability issue. Government websites make no mention of affordability, either.
A story in this morning's St. Petersburg Times by deputy metro editor Richard Martin made no mention of provisions for the poor and indigent, and a widely publicized government Website, www.HealthCare.gov, appears to provide no information, either. The Website links visitors to their state of residence, and in Florida's case, no further information concerning premium assistance for the poor or indigent is provided.
Keith Maley, a public information officer for the Dept. of Health and Human Services, said he would look into the matter and provide more information as soon as possible. The information had not come by press time.
A spokesman for the plan, Richard Popper of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, told the Associated Press Thursday that "There are going to be meaningful premiums that are going to be required to stay in this plan ... in the hundreds of dollars." Neither Popper nor his office answered telephone calls Friday.
An HHS press release announcing the new program merely says that the plan "does not base eligibility on income" or charge higher premiums for a pre-existing condition.
The lowest fee would be about $140, and fees for young people would be cheaper than for older persons. Fees would vary from state to state. The fees should average between $400 and $600, Popper told the AP, but could be as much as $900 in some states.
Those who apply now may be able to get coverage beginning August 1, officials say.
Those who apply must be American citizens or lawfully present here, have been turned down for insurance due to pre-existing conditions and have an insurance company denial letter to prove it, and must have been uninsured for the past six months.
Those who have been turned down over the phone by Blue Cross - which doesn't accept applicants over a certain weight - or other providers are aqpparently out of luck.
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief Joe Shea was honored by President Barack Obama and Organizing For America in recognition of his work for the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010.