This is indeed our 200th column. That’s one every two weeks since July of 2011.
There have been some big changes since then.
Al: The summer of 2011 fell between Congress passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (shortened to ACA or Obamacare) and the Supreme Court ruling it was OK.
Although the ACA wouldn’t officially start until Jan. 1, 2014, California began planning and implementing Covered California immediately after the decision.
Also, people had heard of some of the features of the plan and thought they might already be in place.
Tom: Our very first question had to do with pre-existing conditions and “guaranteed issue.”
Prior to 2014, it was not at all unusual to be denied health coverage because of medical history.
At the time of our first column, the only alternative was the Pre-existing Condition(s) Insurance (PCIP) program which was specifically for those who had been declined.
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The PCIP plan was a federally subsidized plan administered through the state of California. Oh, and it cost more with way fewer benefits. The only guaranteed issue available then was an employer group that had to have a least two people.
Al: Our second question had to do with the exorbitant charges for a policy for an 18-year-old. In anticipation of the changing landscape, health insurance companies stopped giving family rates and instead counted each individual by age.
The new law said they could not decline children under 19 and children could stay on their parents’ plan to age 26. For some companies the rates increased as much as 250 percent.
Tom: The third question on our first column is one that absolutely has not changed. A Baby Boomer was nearing 65 and really didn’t appreciate all the mail he was getting from so many different companies wanting his business for the many “senior” products.
Our advice hasn’t changed: simply contact Social Security, tell them you want to sign up for Medicare A & B and enroll in any supplement or advantage plan you choose because nobody can turn you down!
Al: It seems strange now, but our first column had four different questions. Things have gotten so complex we usually just keep it to one per column.
Anyway, the fourth question had to do with those who can’t afford much of anything. We still have Clinic Ole (now Ole Health) and Medi-Cal may be available for individuals and families earning up to nearly 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
Tom and Alan: As we get ready for the next 200 columns, we’d like to thank our regular readers and the people who say nice things about our work.