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Michael L. Cooper: Oh happy day, policy canceled thanks to ACA
Michael L. Cooper is a Louisville writer and a writing mentor at Lexington's Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.

By Michael L. Cooper

February 9, 2014

My health insurance company canceled my policy and I couldn't be happier.

I'll explain.

Unlike many young people, I became convinced health insurance was essential while in my late 20s. That's when I had major lung surgery and ran up doctor and hospital bills of over $100,000. Most of my bills were covered by health insurance through my job. Without insurance I probably would have been bankrupt.

Since then, for some 30 years, I've been self-employed and buying individual health policies. I never had trouble getting coverage until a few years ago when I moved from the District of Columbia back home to Kentucky.

Then, the state's two primary health insurance companies, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Humana, turned me down because of pre-existing conditions. I had recently started taking cholesterol and blood-pressure medication. And once I had gone to a psychiatrist for depression.

Fortunately, I hadn't canceled my policy in the District of Columbia with Kaiser Permanente. Even though I had moved outside the region the HMO serves, I kept the coverage. It was neither convenient nor guaranteed coverage.

Whenever I needed to see a doctor, I traveled the 450 miles to Washington. If I could get a cheap ticket, I flew. Otherwise I drove. It just takes nine hours.

Fortunately, my health has been pretty good and I never had to make more than three trips a year. But if I had needed ongoing treatment I would have had to move back to D.C. Also, if I had had a heart attack or other medical problem that required emergency treatment in Kentucky, Kaiser might not have paid for it since I was out of the region it covers.

It was a gamble, but I felt it was worth it because without insurance something like a heart attack would wipe out my small nest egg.

For the last couple of years, my Kaiser premiums were about $5,000 a year for a policy with a $9,000 deductible. In October, Kaiser notified me that my policy would be dropped in early 2014 because the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, would make it possible for me to find another insurer.

Of course, ever since the ACA was signed into law in 2010 I'd been looking forward to buying local coverage and seeing local doctors.

An insurance broker did most of the work signing me up through Kynect, the state health exchange program established by Gov. Steve Beshear. The agent researched the plans and showed me three he thought were good.

With the silver plan I chose my annual premiums are less than $2,400. My yearly deductible is $1,000. And I don't have to get on an airliner or drive nine hours to see my doctor.

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