Just 1,200 people have been approved so far for a new program to provide insurance coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
The program, known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, launched in July as one of the immediate benefits of the new health care reform law, offering coverage to the uninsurable until 2014 when people should be able to choose from affordable policies available on an "exchange."
There are roughly four million people uninsured because of pre-existing conditions, and Democrats touted the new program as one of the best immediate provisions of health care reform. But the PCIP's administrators have said they expect it to reach only 350,000 over the next three years. The program is run by the federal government in 22 states and by the state government in the rest.
Kaiser Health News reported that 3,600 people have applied and about 1,200 have been approved for the PCIP. An obstacle is the program's steep premiums, which range from $140 to $900 depending on an applicant's age and location, and its requirement that people be uninsured for six months before applying (though the PCIP is still less expensive and more generous than existing high-risk pools operating in 35 states.)
"As of August 1, over 2,400 people applied for coverage in the 22 States in which the Federal government is running PCIP," said a Health Department spokeswoman in a statement to HuffPost. "About 750 applications had been approved that we were waiting for premium payments from. Over 140 people were enrolled and set to receive coverage."
Monica Buck of Oklahoma City told HuffPost she has applied for the program and is waiting to hear back. She said private insurers rejected her for being overweight. "I'm very hopeful that I get in," said Buck, 46, who said she understands her monthly premium in the PCIP would be $276. Coverage in Oklahoma will be capped at 1,500 people, according to NewsOK.
Mary Duffy of Redwood City, Calif. was disappointed to discover that her monthly premium would be $802, and that the state would not be ready for applicants until the end of the month. She is now hoping the California legislature will speed up the implementation of the exchange.
HuffPost has for the past year chronicled Duffy's quest for health insurance. The 61-year-old three-time cancer survivor campaigned for Obama because of his promise to reform the health insurance industry.
"I have to have a little chat with Obama about his concept of affordability," said Duffy. "I don't know what I'm gonna do. I've been three times around the dance floor with cancer."
HuffPost readers: Applying for the PCIP? Tell us about it -- email email@example.com.