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Sick Oklahomans face Dec. 15 deadline to enroll in health plans

Tanya Case, executive director of Oklahoma's Temporary High Risk Pool, discusses the deadlines and choices facing Americans enrolled in the country's high-risk insurance pools, including more than 3,000 Oklahomans.
Oklahoman Modified: November 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm •  Published: November 11, 2013

Q&A with Tanya Case

Some Oklahomans face Dec. 15

deadline to join a health plan

Q: President Barack Obama last week apologized to at least 3.5 million Americans who received cancellation notices from their insurance companies because their plans don't meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. But there's another 300,000 Americans, including 859 Oklahomans, with cancer, kidney disease and other chronic illnesses who also could lose coverage, given the problems with new online insurance exchange Tell us about those people.

A: These vulnerable people are those who were turned down for health insurance before the ACA, which in January 2014 makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. For the past three years, many have been covered by temporary, high-risk insurance pools created by the ACA. But they will lose coverage 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31, as the ACA becomes effective Jan. 1. To be covered on Jan. 1, they must enroll by Dec. 15. Many of the insurers are also requiring payment of the first month's premium by Dec. 15 in order for coverage to be effective Jan. 1. We have no way of knowing how many pool members have enrolled so far.

Q: Given the new marketplace (exchange) problems, what are you telling these people?

A: We remind them that they can enroll over the phone at (800) 318-2596 and that there are many things that they can be doing right now to get ready to get enrolled. It takes a while to shop for a plan because our high-risk pool members need to make certain that their physicians, their hospitals are in their plan because they use health care frequently, and they have very close relationships with their health care providers. Also, they have to do a lot of research into the plans' pharmacy benefits because they use very high-dollar drugs, and many of them use specialty drugs. So we've impressed upon them that they must make certain what the plan covers in regard to their pharmaceuticals and make sure that they choose a plan that covers their medications at a rate they can afford.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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