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Health Care Law Is 'An Answer To A Prayer' For Some Older Americans

Company Enrolls People In Obama's Affordable Health Care Plan

CHICAGO (AP) - For many older Americans who lost jobs during the recession, the quest for health care has been one obstacle after another. They're unwanted by employers, rejected by insurers, struggling to cover rising medical costs and praying to reach Medicare age before a health crisis.

These luckless people, most in their 50s and 60s, have emerged this month as early winners under the nation's new health insurance system. Along with their peers who are self-employed or whose jobs do not offer insurance, they have been signing up for coverage in large numbers, submitting new-patient forms at doctor's offices and filling prescriptions at pharmacies.

"I just cried I was so relieved," said Maureen Grey, a 58-year-old Chicagoan who finally saw a doctor this month after a fall in September left her in constant pain. Laid off twice from full-time jobs in the past five years, she saw her income drop from $60,000 to $17,800 a year. Now doing temp work, she was uninsured for 18 months before she chose a marketplace plan for $68 a month.

Americans ages 55 to 64 make up 31 percent of new enrollees in the new health insurance marketplaces, the largest segment by age group, according to the federal government's latest figures. They represent a glimmer of success for President Barack Obama's beleaguered law.

The Great Recession hit them hard and for some its impact has lingered.

Aging boomers are more likely to be in debt as they enter retirement than were previous generations, with many having purchased more expensive homes with smaller down payments, said economist Olivia Mitchell of University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. One in five has unpaid medical bills and 17 percent are underwater with their home values. Fourteen percent are uninsured.

As of December, 46 percent of older jobseekers were among the long-term unemployed compared with less than 25 percent before the recession.

And those financial setbacks happened just as their health care needs became more acute. Americans in their mid-50s to mid-60s are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than other age groups, younger or older, accounting for 3 in 10 of the adult diabetes diagnoses in the United States each year. And every year after age 50, the rate of cancer diagnosis climbs.

The affordable coverage is "an answer to a prayer really," said Laura Ingle, a 57-year-old Houston attorney who had been denied coverage repeatedly because she has sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease. She recently had back surgery for a painful condition that's been bothering her for months.

One night in September, 64-year-old Glenn Nishimura woke up with wrenching pain that sent him to the emergency room. It was his gallbladder. A doctor recommended surgery.

Instead, Nishimura went home. A consultant to nonprofit groups, he was self-employed and uninsured.

"I checked myself out because I had no idea what this was going to cost," the Little Rock, Ark., man said. "They didn't want me to go, but they didn't stop me."

Nishimura lost his coverage after leaving a full-time position with benefits in 2007, thinking he could land another good job. The recession ruined that plan. After COBRA coverage expired, he was denied coverage because of high blood pressure and other conditions.

He made it until September without a major illness. A second night of gallbladder pain and a chat with a doctor persuaded him to have the surgery. After getting the bills, he negotiated the fees down to $12,000, which he considered "a big hit, but it could have been worse." The average cost of a gallbladder removal in Arkansas was listed at three times that. Nishimura dipped into his savings to cover the bill.

In December, he chose a bronze plan on the new insurance marketplace that costs him $285 a month after a tax credit. The deductible is $6,300, so he hopes he doesn't have to use his coverage. He can get on Medicare in April, just in time for his annual checkup.

"Now there's the peace of mind of knowing the limits of my obligation if I have catastrophic health needs," he said.

Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger said he's noticed a recent increase in patients in this age group at his family practice in Miami. Lots of them have untreated chronic conditions that have progressed to an advanced stage.

"Many have delayed necessary treatments due to costs and expect a total and quick workup on their first visit," he said, adding they want referrals to specialists and tests including colonoscopies and mammograms.

The abundance of older patients signing up is no surprise to the Obama administration, which conducted internal research last year that showed the "sick, active and worried" would be the most responsive to messages urging them to seek coverage.

Signing up younger, healthier enrollees is seen as more difficult, but crucial to keeping future insurance rates from increasing. The administration said those age groups may put off enrolling until closer to the March 31 deadline.

"We have always anticipated that those with more health needs would sign up early on, and that young and healthy people would wait until the end," administration spokeswoman Joanne Peters said.

Some of the aging boomers were determined to get coverage in the marketplace, despite repeated problems and frustration with the federal website.

The hours spent online and over the phone paid off for real estate agent Greg Burke and his beautician wife, Pat. The empty-nesters qualified for a tax credit that will lower their monthly health insurance premiums by nearly half.

The Burkes, from Akron, Ohio, are among the 38 percent of marketplace enrollees in the state between 55 and 64 years old. He's 61 and had a knee replaced six years ago.

They will now spend $250 a month for health insurance, "a huge savings," Greg Burke said. Their deductibles also dropped from $2,500 each to $750 each, meaning they will pay less out of pocket.

In Miami, licensed practical nurse Marie Cadet, who is 54, often works double shifts to make ends meet for herself and her 12-year-old daughter. She had been paying more than $150 a month for health insurance, with a $3,000 deductible. In effect, she paid most medical costs out of her own pocket, including about $80 a month for blood pressure medicine.

After choosing a plan from the marketplace, Cadet's monthly payment dropped to $86 a month, with the government kicking in $300. Her deductible fell to a more affordable $900.

"Now," Cadet said, "I'm not scared anymore."

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landskp4u March 10 2014 at 11:48 PM

I think we missed the mark with this health care reform. We should have started with some sort of accidental coverage. Throwing theoretical numbers out....... As it stood for many years, if america has 100 million people and 40 million are uninsured the 100 million were being charged premiums based on the fact so many were uninsured and the 100 million was paying for that. So, If said uninsured walked into a hospital with a broken arm he was garanteed treatement whether or not he could pay. That fact has not changed, except that now the previously uninsured person now has some sort of financial responsibility, therefore premiums should actually be going down for the "100 million already insured". The problem with the new laws, as I see it, is that is is covering every pregnant, sick, elderly, auto immune medical issue and forcing the insurance companies to cover it. Many times, persons with ongoing medical issues have less income and based on the new wage based law,and thier premiums are less. I don't want these people to not have coverage, I just don't think the law was set up properly. Accidental coverage should be one policy and healthcare coverage should be another. Two separate policies covering separate items with different costs depending on historical health and/or income. Both should be required, but at different rates and premium costs preventing both abuse of the system and so many previously uninsured from being able to bankrupt the new system.

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smfstiffy February 19 2014 at 1:01 AM

uhhh lets see Obama care covered somebody that medicare or the universal state programs didnt already cover for free? I had to drop my own coverage here in CA in 2008 because it DOUBLED
just after The election. DOUBLED. I would gladly go back to something that was simply expensive
without the access to my bank accounts that you give the government by signing It Page 58 and 59: The government will have real-time access to an individual's bank account and will have the authority to make electronic fund transfers from those accounts.
Yes page 58 of OBAMACARE allows them to TAKE money from your ACCOUNT"
But "got to pass it to read it" right pelosi?
Guess you just thought it was a formality to give ALL you information?
DonT worry All of that info is SAFE, the ACORN employees collecting it were screened Personally!

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1 reply to smfstiffy's comment
clark8642 February 19 2014 at 10:07 AM

Page 58 and 59 deal with Available Coverage Choices for All Americans and Essential Health Benefits Requirements, sections 1301 and 1302 and have nothing to do with EFT payments. Maybe you meant the 58th and 59th pages of the law after allowing for the table of contents and other pages? Those pages deal with EFT payments by the plans. Maybe you could reference the sections of the bill you are worried about?

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dnialst8snatcher February 18 2014 at 9:02 PM

Our senior citizen have the Right tominsurance. Without them this Country would not have what it has. They help work to build it. Prayer answered, yes! I'm sure it's pleased God!!!!

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clark8642 February 18 2014 at 8:27 PM

From many of the comments here I get the impression we are too poor as a nation to provide health care for our citizens. So be it. If they are poor and sick we are prepared to let them suffer because apparently it is their fault and not our concern. Meanwhile we pay more per capita under our pre-ACA system than any country in the world and our results, somewhere around 27 in the world, compare poorly to third world countries like Cuba. So as all of you who are complaining about the ACA talk about the good old days all I can do is shake my head and wonder what you are talking about. Maybe the ACA is not good but the current system leaves much to be desired.

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mydrumms February 18 2014 at 8:57 PM

when have you ever seen a sick human in the country be turned away?? maybe they didnt have a plan b/c they could not afford it but NEVER turned away if they ventured out for care...we have been paying this for years, but now we will pay that, help pay for they're plan to be insured and our backs will break for it, many up us middle class and just getting by!!!! you need a reality check. lastly, if someone is poor and is not disabled they have made the choice to be poor and not try and make it. disabled is one thing but how many poeple do you see out there who could work but they choose to cost this country millions a yr on sustities b/c working the system is easier than actually working. i am so sick watching the Gov suck up 33% every two weeks that we bust our backs for to only go pay 7% on everything we buy, another 12k a yr property tax and a 120,000 college tuition for a child who was a superior student but couldn't get a dime because her parents work while we watch all the money go to the kids who are just so so acidemically but parents choose the opposite. Now to say., my own household is in much need of a newer vehicale to get one of us to work and its not afforded b/c since this clown dropped into office, everything has gone way up, food etc...now we have to sit here and pay for HC for others as well and our own premium has gone up here in nj by 40%. I have another kid to help educate in 2 yrs, he wont get a dime either so you want me to play the violin for the poor, here is my sone "get a ******* job" how is that????

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clark8642 February 18 2014 at 9:14 PM

Made the choice to be poor? Unlike those who made the choice to be rich? Still, you miss the point. Our current health care system is a failure. As a nation we pay the most and get mediocre results. If that is acceptable to you then by all means go for the status quo. In the meantime don't cry about choices. If you are paying $12,000 a year in property tax or 33 percent out of every paycheck for taxes then you have made bad decisions unless you earn a fortune and live in a mansion which from your post I find unlikely.

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rgold10175 February 18 2014 at 7:16 PM

How stupid are you. Obama screws up a recovery, causes people to lose jobs. The work force is way down, and then pays for insurance with other people's money. Don't forget about all the new taxes and fees companies and people have to pay (you don't see it on the front end--a direct payment) but you get it on the back end--take it anyway you want--by all the aforementioned fees and taxes and regulations you DON'T see. Hey, people, without Obamacare and the botched stimulus recovery, you'd probably still be working and having health insurance. And, please don't forget what REALLY caused the mess : Barney Frank and his "Let every jerk who couldn't manage $1.00 or pay rent" have a house they couldn't keep up.
Look at the BIG picture. Wait till' the poop really hits the fan in a couple of years.

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clark8642 February 18 2014 at 9:56 PM

What really caused the mess was the creation of new financial products sold by investment bankers more interested in their next bonus check than the viability of their own company. They got their commissions whether the products were viable or not. And the collapse of the boom economy in real estate, and the loss of related construction related jobs, in the last two years of the Bush administration, occurred before the 2008 election and gave President Obama the White House.

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mlp7595 February 18 2014 at 6:49 PM

Anyone who thinks Obamacare is a good thing will need to deal with the chains of Marxist slavery and the burdening of their kids and grandkids with what they are unwilling to pay for themselves today. I, for one, do not want my kids and grand kids to be forced to pay for my excesses today. I can pay my own way and am not interested in the free lunch that has dire consequences for all of us.

The Obama playbook is right out of the Communist/Marxist Saul Alinski's playbook. The frogs in the boiling pot better start connecting the lines and wake up before they, and their kids and grand kids, are cooked.

From Saul Alinski's book, which Obama has read repeatedly! To wit:

There are 8 level of control that must be obtained before you are able to create a socialist state. The 1st is the most important.

1. Healthcare – Control Healthcare and you control the people.

2. Poverty – Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.

3. Debt- Increase the debt to an unsustainable level that way you are able to increase taxes and this will produce more Poverty.

4. Gun Control- Remove the ability to defend their self from the Government, that way you are able to create a Police State.

5. Welfare- Take control of every aspect of their live's (Food, Housing, and Income).

6. Education- Take control of what the people read and listen to – take control of what the children learn in school.

7. Religions- Remove the belief in the God in Government and schools.

8. Class Warfare- Divide the people in the wealthy and the poor, this will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.

Obama and his Marxist buddies are right in the process of instituting all 8 of these right before our eyes. Feel free to pass this on to any open-minded friends...Better wake up America!!!!!!!!!

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2 replies to mlp7595's comment
mydrumms February 18 2014 at 8:44 PM

this is very well said thank you for putting it up

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clark8642 February 18 2014 at 10:04 PM

The burdening of my kids and grandkids comes from the borrow and spend policies of the Congress, D and R, over the last twelve years. Tax cuts galore without offsetting spending cuts and worse, wars on the credit card. If something is worth going to war over then it is worth tax increases to at least offset some of the cost.

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mlp7595 February 18 2014 at 6:47 PM

Low information morons love Obamacare

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realestatenorth February 18 2014 at 6:46 PM

Prapoganda from Chicago. Gee wheez libaturds this is great news.

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nkowalak February 18 2014 at 6:40 PM

This is the only picture of the Prez in the past two months where he is smiling! Must have been the latest golf trip that gave him that look!

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larry February 18 2014 at 6:38 PM

Noone has paid for Obamacare yet. The back end of the website still has NOT been built. Of the many that Obama claim has signed-up for Obamacare-----noone has paid or even recieved a billing statement. When will the lies stop ???

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