Rep. Meehan hears complaints, fears about health-care plans

Posted: November 08, 2013

SPRINGFIELD They sat around a makeshift conference table in the basement of Rep. Patrick Meehan's Delaware County office talking about their experiences with the Affordable Care Act.

The group - two doctors, two small-business owners, an insurance broker, a self-employed man, and an unemployed woman about to lose her individual plan - talked about canceled policies, new plans with high deductibles and co-pays, privacy fears, and the erosion of the doctor-patient relationship.

Meehan, a Republican and bitter critic of the law who has consistently voted to defund it, said he convened the meeting after getting complaints.

"Over the last few weeks, I've heard from hundreds of constituents with frustrating and heartbreaking stories about the effect Obamacare is having on them and their families," he said.

Mary Ellen Jones, who owns HomeCareConnection in Havertown, said she recently received a letter from Independence Blue Cross informing her that her catastrophic plan would no longer be available starting in 2014. And since she is over 30, the new cutoff for catastrophic insurance, Jones would have to buy another, more expensive policy. But she does not intend to buy another plan or pay the fine.

"What really distresses me is that we as American citizens are being forced to buy a product we don't need," Jones said. "We have been lied to and we want accountability for that."

Sitting across the table, Jeanne Patterson said she recently was informed that her individual policy would be terminated Nov. 20. The unemployed Drexel Hill resident was able to find an affordable policy even though she has a preexisting condition. "I paid a lot of money for" the plan, Patterson said fighting back tears. "My husband scrimped and saved."

But now with just two weeks before her current policy is terminated, Patterson worried that she won't be able to find a new plan in time. And if she does, she isn't sure her neurologist will be part of the plan's network.

"He actually keeps me going," Patterson said of her doctor. "I have not slept. My husband and I are devastated."

Rochelle Fox could sympathize with Patterson. Fox received a similar letter saying that her current policy will not be available after June 30. The Newtown Square resident and small-business owner has looked at several plans in the marketplace. But each has premiums and deductibles that are higher than her present plan. She does not qualify for a subsidy or cost-sharing benefits.

"The first thing I realized is that I never believed a word that the president said, so I knew that my insurance was going to go sky high," she said.

Fox wondered why she, at 61, should be charged on her policy for things like maternity care, pediatrics, or substance abuse.

"We were told that we could keep our health insurance if we liked it," she said. "I want him, our president, to be held accountable for his words."

Maria DeMario, a family practitioner with Gateway Medical Associates in Newtown Square, is concerned that the ACA will bring an influx of patients that will force doctors to spend less time with patients.

"Doctors were just praying and hoping this would never happen," said DeMario, who has been in practice 20 years. "We knew it was unsustainable and would change medicine. The quality of care is going to go down."

If nothing else, the accounts showed that access to the website is not the only problem some people have with the ACA.

"We're not talking about signing on to the website," Meehan said. "This is more about co-pays and responsible people who have purchased insurance. The people being the most responsible are being punished the most."


Robert Calandra can be reached at R.calandra@comcast.net or 215-836-0101.

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health-policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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