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Pre-existing conditions no longer blocked from health insurance coverage

To the editor:

Thank God for Obamacare. To the extent that our Representative Jay McNamar is responsible for Obamacare (he really isn’t), thank God for Jay McNamar.

Since the late 1960s, federal health insurance has been available to the elderly and the very poor through Medicare and Medicaid. In the late 1990s, the federal health insurance safety net was expanded to include many more children through the CHIP program. Starting two years ago, Obamacare offered a way for young adults to gain coverage by letting them stay on their parent’s insurance until age 27. Approximately 3 million young Americans became insured through that expansion alone.

Then came January 2014, and things changed for the rest of us. In last week’s paper, Jeff Backer, who somehow failed to mention that he is running for state representative, implied that things got worse. He is wrong.

To illustrate my point, until January 1, 2014, I was completely uninsurable on the individual open market. I have a “pre-existing condition” that would have caused any insurance company to turn me away. My situation is not rare. A 2012 GAO report estimated that 2.3 million Minnesota adults ages 19-64 have pre-existing conditions that would have limited or completely blocked their access to individual health insurance.

That didn’t mean that 2.3 million Minnesotans lacked health insurance. Most working age adults did, and will continue to, receive health insurance through their employers.

Now, thanks to Obamacare, pre-existing conditions won’t block access to health insurance. That is a big deal. The Obamacare health exchange websites, both nationally and in Minnesota, got off to a famously poor start. That is unfortunate, annoying and inexcusable. Websites get fixed. The change those websites are part of will have staying power. That, Mr. Backer, is a good thing.