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Faces of Health Care Reform: Kristen & Adam (How Pre-Existing Conditions Can Lead to Insurance Discrimination).

Organizing for America, the post-election, field operation intended to continue the grassroots work of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, has collected hundreds of thousands of personal health care stories, with hundreds coming from right here in Minnesota.

The stories, intended to build support for President Obama’s three principles for health care reform (lowering costs, preserving patient choice, and increasing access to quality care), make a point about America’s need for reform that not even the health care industry’s army of lobbyists cannot refute.

Here’s one story — that of Kristen and Adam from Minneapolis, MN. Watch it:

After losing health insurance through her employer, Kristen and Adam were unable to buy health insurance on the open market, because Kristen has polycystic kidneys. Even though Kristen is taking preventative measures to keep her kidneys healthy like quitting caffeine and lowering her salt intake, she was still rejected by insurance providers because of her so-called "pre-existing condition."

Kristen and Adam were forced to get insurance through Minnesota’s high-risk pool, in which they pay $215 each quarter for a plan with a $10,000 deductible. "I don’t have access to the health care system — this is only to keep myself and my mother from going bankrupt should anything ever happen to me," Kristen says. "Its not health insurance – its a hedge against catastrophe."

But Kristen and Adam’s story isn’t unique. Millions of Americans face this kind of discrimination in the private health insurance market, where a history of illness often means higher premiums, limitations in coverage, or a complete denial of coverage. If you take just three pre-existing conditions which are most often used as a pretext for discrimination–asthma, cancer, and diabetes–there are over 1,000,000 Minnesotans who are at risk of experiencing the same health care "catastrophe" as Kristen and Adam.

In these difficult economic times, relying on employer-provided health care (which requires that employers offer the same coverage to all employees regardless of their medical history) isn’t enough. When someone loses or leaves their job, as happened in Kristen’s case, these "pre-existing conditions" make it harder for them to find (or even afford!) quality health care coverage. In many cases, this kind of cost and coverage discrimination, can mean the difference between having health insurance or having none.


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