An analysis of 130 metropolitan areas found that Appalachia has some of the highest rates of pre-existing health conditions in the nation. The report comes in the midst of continued federal proposals to weaken pre-existing condition requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Among other things, the ACA guaranteed people access to insurance regardless of how healthy they are. Prior to the ACA, insurance companies could decline to provide insurance to people with type two diabetes or cancer, for instance.
In 2017, the Trump administration attempted to repeal and replace the ACA. Those efforts failed. Now, efforts are underway to expand the availability of short-term insurance plans, which are not required to follow any of the ACA’s requirements, including covering people with pre-existing conditions. These plans tend to be cheaper than regular insurance, but don’t cover as much.
A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of metropolitan areas found that 27% of adults ages 18-64 (52 million people) have a pre-existing condition that would have led to a denial of insurance in the individual market before the ACA. Those numbers are much higher in Appalachia with 38 percent of residents in Charleston, WV, 35 percent in Ashland, Kentucky, 41 percent in Bristol Tennessee/Virginia and 31 percent in Martinsburg reporting preexisting conditions.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.