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Group Says: All Ohioans Would Benefit from Open Enrollment Changes

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 By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH, Contact
June 22, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Open should mean "no exclusion," but that's not the case when it comes to Ohio's Open Enrollment Program for health care. Many people with pre-existing conditions are finding the program is not a viable option because there is no regulation of premium costs.

Toledo area resident Anne Creech is a two-time cancer survivor. She says she was turned off by the high cost of the insurance.

"What was shocking to me was the prices. There is no way I could have afforded $1,650 a month or $2,350 a month. Shocking! All I can say is, 'shocking' - and why, why?"

Creech now pays for insurance in the individual market, but it does not cover anything related to her cancer diagnosis. She says her deductible is outrageously high, so she cannot afford screenings to detect the cancer's return.

Gov. Strickland and the House supported changes to insurance rules that would have lowered premium rates for people with pre-existing conditions, but the Senate struck down the provision in its version of the budget. Some say mandates on private insurers would increase premiums for those who can afford coverage, but supporters of the provision estimate that it would allow an additional 52,000 Ohioans to obtain coverage, with only a marginal rate increase in the individual market.

Co-chair of Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, Cathy Levine, says those with pre-existing conditions are the people who need coverage the most, but they can't get it. And, she adds, making making health care affordable is an issue that affects all Ohioans.

"First of all, those of us who are paying for insurance are paying for the cost of treating people without insurance. Secondly, any one of us may have to buy insurance in the individual market and will face these same barriers."

Levine says the proposed changes to the Open Enrollment Program would come at no cost to taxpayers. Currently, there are only 1,400 people in the program.

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