When Sarasota resident Nelly de Ridder changed insurance last fall, she didn’t question her coverage. She had just stopped receiving a subsidy through the Affordable Care Act, and felt happy her broker got her something short-term and reasonably cheap.
But as January approached, she found herself increasingly concerned. She had been mailed a full copy of her policy. And then when she set up appointments and called her new provider directly, she learned something she didn’t thing possible.
The short-term policy didn’t cover pre-existing conditions. That meant treatment of a genetic cardiovascular issue was not covered.
“All the tests I needed to have done, an ultrasound I needed,” de Ridder lamented. “I’m on four medication. Even if I was prescribed generics, the out-of-pocket would be $800 a month.”
For a retiree who only worked part-time providing social work services that wouldn’t work. So she called up her state Reprentative’s office for help.
State Rep. Margaret Good’s office helped navigate de Ridder through the existing options, and even got her back on a subsidy. But officials there say it’s wrong that “junk insurance” could be sold in Florida.
Now Good, a Sarasota Democrat, filed legislation (HB 1293) she says rolls back a recent change in law that created problems in short-term insurance.
“In Florida, at least 3.8 million people suffer from a pre-existing condition and one in two people live with a chronic disease,” Good said.
“These Floridians suffer doubly when they can’t afford their healthcare or are dropped from the insurance coverage. Floridians living without health care create strain on Florida households and on our economy.”
Her legislation would help make-sure individuals like de Ritter don’t end up thinking they have coverage they do not.
“This bill protects Florida consumers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions and from increasing premium rates based on preexisting conditions.”
It also revisits legislation passed last year that authorized insurance providers to create new policies for “essential health benefits.” That legislation ultimately passed through largely party-line votes in both chambers of the Legislature.
But lawmakers involved then, including House sponsor Rep. Tommy Gregory, said the intention was never to expose consumers to preexisting condition exclusions.
“The legislation last year was designed in part to be a stop gap in case ObamaCare is ever overturned,” said Gregory, a Lakewood Ranch Republican. “It’s designed to help prevent those situations you described.”
Gregory’s hope by allowing consumers to buy short-term insurance, then in the event they were between jobs or had a lapse in eligibility, a safety net remain available.
Gregory said health care regulations can be complex, and he’d be happy to look at whatever Good has proposed. But he hasn’t heard a barrage of complaints like de Ritter’s.
Good serves as the Democratic Ranking Member of the House Health Market Reform Subcommittee, so she hopes to see the issue addressed this Session.
As written, Good’s bill also tackled safeguards on keeping prescription drugs affordable in Florida. A significant portion of the legislation relates to creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Commission.
“Prescription drug costs continue to rise,” Good said. “It is one of the issues I hear most about from my constituents. I am committed to finding ways to lower prescription drug prices and this bill, by creating a commission to monitor drug costs, does just that.”