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Here’s a story for every news outlet in the United States, no matter how small or large: Randall Patrick of The Kentucky Standard in Bardstown shows how the federal health-care reform law is having an effect at the individual level by telling the story of Bonnie Varnell, a local resident who was uninsured and is more than $65,000 in debt due to her fight against cancer.
For 18 years, Varnell worked at a daycare that didn’t offer health insurance. She wasn’t able to buy individual coverage because she had pre-exisiting conditions as a result of surgeries. She is only 59, so does not qualify for Medicare, and she didn’t qualify for the federal law known as COBRA, which “allows workers to keep their company group health insurance benefits for up to 18 months after leaving their jobs, as long as they pay the entire premium,” Patrick explains.
As a result, the bills kept mounting, despite hospitals giving the Varnells reduced rates through charity care. “I’ve been trying to pay something on every one,” Varnell’s husband Ed said of the bills he receives and has to delay paying in full. “It’s really frustrating. We had never been late a day in our lives.”
Now, Varnell has health insurance through a program created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “It costs her $315 a month and covers most of her costs after the deductible is met, but the law stipulates that a person with a pre-existing condition must be uninsured for at least six months before she or he can be eligible,” Patrick explains.
Varnell’s fear now is the program will be taken away if the Affordable Care Act is repealed after the November election. Patrick gives opponents of the law their say. (Read more.)
Varnell is among the estimated 15 percent of people in her county who didn’t have health insurance in 2009, the last year for which estimates are available. For the Census Bureau website with estimates for every county, go here.
This story was republished from The Rural Blog, a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues, and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.