DeLauro visit emphasizes Affordable Care Act enrollment starts Nov. 1
NEW HAVEN — Marisol Velez and Pedro Garcia are a relieved couple.
When Garcia, a construction worker, complained to his wife that he didn’t feel well and was dizzy, she took him to a walk-in clinic.
Personnel there told her to get Garcia to the emergency room at Yale New Haven Hospital, where he was told he had a serious heart problem.
Scared that she would not be able to get insurance to cover his bills, Velez consulted Carmen Comacho at the Fair Haven Community Health Center.
The couple used the clinic for their primary care, but did not have insurance as they earned slightly more than what would have qualified them for Medicaid. As for private insurance, she did not think they could afford it.
One of Comacho’s responsibilities is to help people navigate the ACA website to find the right policy. She said the couple found one through ConnectiCare, where the monthly charge was reduced through tax credits. It also retroactively covered their bills.
One of the most important features for the couple, however, was its coverage of pre-existing conditions.
“I want to say thank you,” Velez said. “This could happen to anyone” she said of the medical crisis and the potential financial crisis her family faced.
The couple were at City Hall participating in a press conference with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, Mayor Toni Harp, Comacho and Dr. Suzanne Lagarde, CEO of the Fair Haven Community Health Clinic.
The open enrollment period to sign up for the Affordable Care Act insurance or renew a policy starts Thursday and continues through Dec. 15. DeLauro said funds to advertise the enrollment period have been cut 90 percent by the federal government and the initial enrollment timeframe has shrunken dramatically.
DeLauro said 10 million people nationally have pre-existing conditions and could be open to discrimination by insurers without protections.
Lagarde and DeLauro said right now the ACA continues to be the law of the land, despite the 70 votes by House Republicans to try to repeal it and the current lawsuit supported by the Trump administration that threatens its benefits.
“This takes us backwards,” the congresswoman said.
Lagarde had similar advice.
“My message to folks is don’t assume you don’t qualify. You don’t know. Sit down with an expert,” she said.
A Democratic staff report to the Commitee on Oversight and Government Reform for the U.S. House said as many as 35,000 people in the Third District currently covered in the individual health care market could lose protections if the states challenging the law were to win in court.
DeLauro said 23,000 residents of her district have pre-existing conditions; 10,000 of them have pre-existing health conditions severe enough to deny them any health coverage, according to the report.
She said if the protections for older Americans are eliminated, they could be charged more than 10 times the amount a younger adult now pays for their insurance premiums.
The report said Connecticut has its own state-level protections for pre-existing conditions, women and older Americans, but if they are rolled back at that level, there will be no backstop to federal changes.
Besides enrolling in insurance through the ACA, Lagarde put in a plug for all citizens to exercise their right to vote next week.
“One of the ways we can send a strong message to Congress ... is voting. Next Tuesday I would be so proud to say that voter turnout in Connecticut would hit an all-time high,” Lagarde said.