New health care law offers hope to those with chronic or preexisting conditions

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The new health care law could be a Godsend for people who live in agony, suffering with chronic or preexisting conditions. Many have been denied insurance because of their health. These people desperately want to believe they will be eligible for health insurance. However, some remain skeptical.

We first met June and Bill Nelson in February 2012, when they told us about their mountain of medical bills. They faced $400K to $500K worth of bills, they told us at the time. Bill had suffered several heart attacks and June had needed treatment for cervical and breast cancer. "Everything just kind of fell in on us at once," they told us.

Now June is dealing with everything alone; Bill passed away in December. Meanwhile, she's on disability following three back surgeries. She says her pain, coupled with her financial burden, makes things difficult. "You have to look at that pill bottle and go OK maybe we can skip today," she says. "It's tough, it's very tough."

But under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans won't be able to refuse coverage for people like June just because she has a preexisting or chronic condition, explains Jeff Stelnik, Senior Vice-President at Blue Cross  Blue Shield. "The rates will be the same for someone who is unhealthy versus healthy," he tells us.

He says there are many big changes taking effect Jan. 1, 2014.

"The rates that an individual gets are no longer based on health conditions, and are not based on gender and are very loosely based on age."

While that sounds promising, June is skeptical.

"It's too expensive to take care of people with preexisting conditions," she says. "I think they're going to find this out, that once they take us on as insurers, the companies are going to find out just how expensive it is to have us on their plans and they're not going to be happy."

Despite her fears, June is anxiously waiting for open enrollment to begin, "October  first -- absolutely. I've got my paperwork ready to go," she says. "I'm ready to get online and ready to fill out my forms."

While June has no doubt she'll check out her options on the marketplace, what she decides to do remains a question mark.

"I don't know; maybe it's cheaper for me not to buy insurance and take a chance and pay the penalty on my tax return, maybe?" she wonders. "I don't know. Do I play the game? Do I take the chance? Do I roll the dice? I don't know."

For more information about the Affordable Health Care Act, watch 3TV's special report, "Health Care -- Reform or Rip-off," Thursday at 6:30 p.m.