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Health insurance keeps me alive

Jessica Carpenter, a member of the University of Arizona women’s rugby team, gets ready for a game against UCLA at William David Sitton field. (Photo by Emily Carpenter)

I am a 21-year-old student attending the University of Arizona with a pre-existing condition covered under my parents’ health insurance plan. I’m scared. And I’m not alone.

I’m scared because like the millions of other people under 26 who are part of their parent’s health insurance plan, I’m unsure whether  I will remain under my parents’ plan if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

About 3.1 million people under age 26 in the United States are under their parents’ health insurance plan, and about 50,000 young adults in Arizona benefit from the plan, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

This is all because of the Affordable Care Act.

Some 52 million Americans have a pre-existing condition such as cancer, diabetes and asthma. About 1 million in Arizona, or 26 percent of the state’s population, have a pre-existing condition. I am one.

I have Type 1 diabetes and I have had it since I was 3. I rely on the medication I take daily to live. No more immediate access to insulin? I die. Pretty quickly actually.

Diabetic insulin supplies Novolog, Tresiba and needles. (Photo by Jessica Carpenter / Arizona Sonora News)

According to Diabetes Self-Management, the cost of insulin has more than tripled in 10 years. These prices have risen from about $100-$200 a month to nearly $500 a month.

People with diabetes have medical expenditures about 2.3 times higher than people without, according to the American Diabetes Association.

If the ACA gets repealed, there will be yearly and lifetime limits on benefits. People with pre-existing conditions will pay much higher premiums. To keep that coverage, people like me could never let insurance lapse. Changing jobs would be losing insurance.

Republicans are now suggesting separating people with pre-existing conditions from the rest of the population.

Tom Price, head of Department of Health and Human Services, wants to implement state high-risk pools as the alternate to the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s the problem for me. These high-risk pools can quickly become deadly for people with pre-existing conditions. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the pools have extremely high premiums, waiting lists, high deductibles and temporary exclusions for people with some pre-existing conditions that put them in the high-risk pools in the first place.

Dr. Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, agrees that high-risk pools are more harmful than helpful.

“These pools have not been very successful in the past,” he says. “They never provide enough coverage, and they always have waiting lists. The only people who really benefit from high-risk pools are people with low risks; their premiums will be lower because all the really high-cost users are forced out of the market.”

“It’s just a mechanism for segregating people according to their health status,” Kominski adds, “which almost always makes people with serious illnesses much worse off.”

Not only are these high-risk pools dangerous for people like myself, but Price is only planning on spending $1 billion a year to fund it. Such a plan that should require nearly $200 billion a year, according to a Commonwealth Fund study.

With the Affordable Care Act in place, the concept of pre-existing conditions excluding people from insurance does not exist.

Repealing the act would make health coverage for me and thousands of others too expensive or impossible to get. I would die.

 

 

Students wait for care inside of University of Arizona Campus Health. (Photo by Jessica Carpenter / Arizona Sonora NewsI

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

Jessica Carpenter is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at jcarpenter2@email.arizona.edu.

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