One in four Ohioans under the age of 65 have pre-existing conditions that can prevent them from receiving health coverage, according to a Families USA report released in May 2010. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced today that the State of Ohio plans to designate Medical Mutual of Ohio as the non-profit entity that will operate the state's temporary insurance pool for uninsured Ohioans with pre-existing conditions. The temporary insurance pools were authorized by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, historic health reform legislation championed by Sen. Brown.
"Ohioans who have been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions will soon have an affordable insurance option administered by a not-for-profit Ohio company," Brown said. "I applaud the state of Ohio for taking the steps necessary to ensure that Ohio-based Medical Mutual will soon be able to offer affordable insurance options to Ohioans who have been victims of our broken health insurance system. Pre-existing condition denials plague every income group, every racial or ethnic group, and every age group. That's why enacting health reform was so critical. This new insurance option will provide thousands of Ohioans with access to affordable health coverage."
The new health care law authorized the creation of state high-risk pools to provide immediate relief to uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions. Premiums in the high risk pool will be affordable to ensure that those who have been priced-out of coverage have access to affordable, high-quality insurance. The high risk pools will exist until the Exchanges are operational in 2014.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will collaborate with Medical Mutual and the Ohio Department of Insurance to finalize the logistics of the program and implement the program. According to Medical Mutual, an estimated 5,000 Ohioans would be covered through the duration of the program, with individuals paying a standard rate premium for their coverage. No state funds will be used to provide this coverage.
Sen. Sherrod Brown continues to lead the fight in the Senate to bring affordable health coverage to Ohioans. In May 2010, Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced the COBRA Health Benefits Extension Act of 2010 that would extend health insurance coverage for current COBRA enrollees until the major reforms in the new health law take effect. The legislation would provide a bridge for unemployed workers and early retirees by allowing them to stay on their former employer's health plan instead of entering the individual market or enrolling in a high risk pool. Former workers currently enrolled in COBRA would be able to keep their insurance beyond standard eligibility periods until another job that offers coverage is secured or they become eligible to participate in an insurance exchange in 2014.