The fight against chronic disease

A man's body seen from behind with dermatitis on the neck. (Photo: Naeblys, via Shutterstock)

For the millions of Californians living with chronic health conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma and arthritis, securing adequate and affordable health care coverage can be a challenging feat. Rising costs and limited in-network options are making it even more difficult for these patients to receive the specialized care they need.

Despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing chronic diseases, many still face significant obstacles to accessing the quality and affordable health care they depend on. With rising premiums and one-in-five emergency room visits leading to unexpected out-of-pocket costs, it’s no wonder that increasing costs, affordability and transparency are major concerns for Californians with chronic diseases.

It is particularly important that health insurance work to provide access to quality, affordable care for those who need it most.

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease recently commissioned a survey that shows people in California and across the nation are concerned about the affordability of their health care. In California, 55 percent of those surveyed say they or someone they know have experienced a surprise medical bill when insurance covered less than expected of the cost of care, and 64 percent say holding insurers accountable for inappropriate denials of care should be a top priority of government officials. Fifty-seven percent of California voters also said officials should prioritize transparency by taking action that would require insurance companies to provide information up-front about what out-of-pocket costs they will face for hospital and physician visits.

While these issues are faced by Californians in general, they have an even greater impact on those with chronic diseases, whose care needs are often greater and costs are often much higher. It is particularly important that health insurance work to provide access to quality, affordable care for those who need it most.

This week I joined health care experts, providers and other professionals at the Northern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference to discuss next steps, the “fixes” that would be appropriate and where the national reform discussion should lead.

Policymakers have an opportunity to take meaningful steps to address health care issues that impact all Californians, and especially those with one or more chronic diseases. With costly chronic conditions taking lives and consuming health care dollars, there is a pressing need to act on denials of coverage, unexpected out-of-pocket costs and more transparency.

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