Cancer, diabetes, lupus, epilepsy, depression and pregnancy are all examples of medical conditions that are considered pre-existing conditions. This is why the Indiana Senate Democrats made it a part of our 2019 legislative agenda to protect coverage for prior health conditions. This week State Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) authored an amendment to House Bill (HB) 1631, to add in language that would ensure no Hoosier would be at risk of losing coverage, even on short term insurance plans.
Sometimes Hoosiers choose to adopt a short term insurance plan because their income is slightly too high to qualify for insurance subsidies, their family members are not covered by insurance premium subsidies or they have other coverage lined up to start in the near future but need something to cover unexpected medical events in the meantime. HB 1631 specified regulations to some of these short term insurance plans but didn’t include any guarantee of coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Unfortunately, people on a short term health insurance plan have actually been denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. During the Senate session, Sen. Ford told the story of Amanda Scharnhorst, who had coverage denied by her short term insurance provider when she found out that she had cancer.
When Amanda felt a lump in her breast she did not panic because she had experienced something similar before. After visiting her doctor for a routine checkup, she wasn’t surprised when her physician ordered some tests just to rule out any trouble.
This time was different. Within two weeks, the 41-year-old mother of two young children was meeting with an oncologist and surgeon to discuss how to treat stage two breast cancer. It was aggressive and spread to a few lymph nodes, so the recommendation was chemotherapy right away. Unfortunately, Amanda was not just fighting cancer, she was also fighting her insurance company.
Days after a pathologist diagnosed her invasive ductal carcinoma, the insurance company informed her that they would not pay for any of her medical bills while they took a closer look at her medical records.
Ms. Scharnhorst purchased a short-term insurance plan that covers her family for 89 days. She renewed the policy every three months, and was doing so for several years. Still, her insurance provider abandoned her when she needed them most.
This is only one example of how Hoosiers who have preexisting conditions are at risk of losing their health insurance. Senate Democrats want to make sure that no Hoosier falls through the cracks or face the difficult decision between paying a medical bill or putting food on the table. Fortunately, Sen. Ford’s amendment was approved 40-9 in the Senate. Senate Democrats will continue to fight to make sure this language stays in the bill and becomes law.