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Helen DePrima: How Obamacare worsened my health insurance

March 09. 2014 4:09PM

We were always happy with our health care coverage. My husband and I have been on the same plan since 1972, when my husband graduated from veterinary medical school. We liked our plan and wanted to keep it; it provided us excellent coverage and served our needs perfectly.

Not anymore. Thanks to Obamacare, our happy relationship with our health insurance ended in November of 2012 after 40 years. That’s when we received notification that our health insurance plan would cease to exist as of Dec. 31, 2013.

The company providing our coverage — ironically New York Life, “the one you keep,” according to its ads — couldn’t afford to continue providing low-cost, high-quality benefits to subscribers under 65 while complying with Obamacare’s ruinous mandates. The policy was canceled nationwide.

I have no beef with my insurance company. At least they gave us a whole year’s notice and worked with us tirelessly to find us the best alternative plan. I can’t blame them for refusing to bow to the government’s demand that they commit financial suicide. Aetna, another insurance giant, may also pull out of Obamacare for similar reasons.

The problem lies with Obamacare itself. Now that our original insurance is gone, we have poorer quality supplemental coverage at a higher cost. Some of the prescriptions our previous policy paid for are now “disallowed.” If we want to continue taking them, it’s on our nickel completely. One of my prescriptions cost me twice the amount out-of-pocket than it did under our old plan. The agent who helped us transition to the replacement plan calculated that we’ll pay more than $10,000 per year.

At least we can still choose any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare. That availability will probably shrink as older doctors retire and the practice of medicine becomes less attractive as a career.

In a way, this is only the latest failure of government-run health care in New Hampshire. During the 1980s, my husband’s practice made the same great coverage that we enjoyed available to his staff as part of their employee benefits. When then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen drove most health insurance companies out of the state in 1994, we got a preview of how government interference can affect medical coverage.

Our plan allowed younger participants to pay lower premiums commensurate with lower risk, but it was limited to veterinary professionals and their employees. The law Shaheen pushed through required that the plan be open to anyone in the state and that everyone be forced to pay the same premium.

Unsurprisingly, the company providing coverage for the plan refused to comply with such absurd mandates and left the state. Other insurers followed suit. Our policy was grandfathered only because of my husband’s professional status, but the rest of our employees lost their coverage.

Obamacare merely picks up where Shaheen left off.

Besides robbing us of our original insurance plan, Obamacare is further penalizing seniors by reducing Medicare funding over the next four years for physical, speech and occupational therapies as well as home care services. I had shoulder surgery last November, making sure to schedule it before the end of the year while still on my old policy. I started physical therapy in December, continuing into 2014. Then I learned — at my rehab facility, no less — that as of Jan. 1, Medicare would pay for only 15 visits. That seemed adequate (I had no complications) until the billing clerk explained that 15 visits would be my total allotment for visits of any kind for the whole year.

Heaven forbid I should have any other problem requiring rehab before 2015. I’ve had two knee replacements. If I had waited until 2014, 15 visits would barely get me off crutches, let alone restore any kind of normal function.

Such are the results of the badly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Protecting patients from what? Caring by canceling our insurance and worsening our coverage? And affordable? Hardly! My husband and I will get by, but I’m sad for younger people who will have to deal with the economic fallout from Obamacare for years to come.

The whole law, from its name to its effects, is one bad joke. I just wish the punch line was funny.

Helen DePrima lives in Bedford.

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