Those With Pre-Existing Conditions No Longer Denied Health Insurance Coverage Under Affordable Care Act

Those with pre-existing conditions will benefit from the Affordable Care Act once it takes effect on Oct. 1.

When the Affordable Care Act goes into effect next month, those with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied or priced out of coverage.

The new healthcare law will prevent annual and lifetime limits on coverage for those with chronic illnesses. Children will also be allowed to remain on their parents' plans until the age of 26 and all preventive screenings and immunizations will be covered.

Leslie Sheffield, 60, went without health insurance for a couple of years, then purchased an individual policy. Just a few weeks after reaching the one-year mark on her insurance, she was diagnosed with stage 3 endometrial cancer.

"You had to be on the plan and healthy for one year without any big illness," Sheffield said. "Otherwise, it would have been considered pre-existing."

While Sheffield made the one-year mark, she said she was still worried her coverage would be taken away.

"You're always fearful during the treatments, 'What if? What if they pull the insurance out from under me?'" Sheffield said.

And other more common conditions have also been keeping Americans from receiving the coverage they want.

Barbara Effman, who has diabetes, said she is dissatisfied with her health insurance plan but she's been turned down by other providers.

"They don't want to cover anyone that has diabetes," she said. "And I'll tell you something. There's so many people in this country that have diabetes that don't work for a company. This affects millions of people."

As of January 2014, Effman and others will be able to shop for new policies that will cover pre-existing conditions.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) recently held a workshop in Fort Lauderdale for local hospitals and health centers to explain the Affordable Care Act.

"For a breast cancer survivor like me and people living with pre-existing conditions, it means as of January 1 an insurance company cannot drop us or deny us coverage for that pre-existing condition," she said.

Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program also can't refuse coverage or charge more due to an illness.

Grandfathered health plans are the one exception, meaning those who purchased group plans or individual policies before March 23, 2010 will have to check with their health insurance provider to see if pre-existing conditions are covered.

Additionally, young adults without health benefits of their own can continue to be covered on their parents' insurance plans until age 26. The cut-off for non-students used to be 21.

Few Floridians realize there is a state law that allows parents to have children on their insurance policy until the age of 30, but the child needs to live in Florida.

"Our 25-year-old son Andy is still on my individual policy plan ," Sheffield said. "That's huge, enormous."

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