Posted: Oct 28, 2013 8:57 PM by Melissa Anderson - MTN News
HELENA - Chelsia Rice's battle against cancer is hanging on hope when it comes to having effective health insurance.
Even though the new Affordable Care Act is supposed to allow pre-existing conditions, it comes too late for Chelsia Rice.
Featured in the Helena Vigilante last February, Chelsia story explains why pre-existing condition clauses in health insurance can create problems for patients and the healthcare industry.
Rice sought treatment for what she thought was a bladder infection but delayed getting an MRI for it until she was accepted into her partner's health insurance plan last October.
During her covered medical appointment through Allegiance Benefit Plan Management, she was diagnosed with a rare form of bladder cancer, which eventually resulted in several radical surgeries and chemotherapy treatment.
"I would have gone to the doctor in June to get what I thought was something bad looked at, instead of waiting until October 1st until my effective date," she said.
While Chelsia and her long-time partner Sharla Crawford were grateful that they were finally able to purchase insurance through Crawford's teaching job, they were shocked when the bills for treatment started piling up.
Then, the unimaginable happened: the claims came back as not covered by Allegiance, due to pre-existing conditions.
Chelsia said, "$200,000 in doctor bills that I am negotiating with Mayo Clinic and St. Pete's for charitable forgiveness or sliding scale payments."
And while she has the option to go out and purchase insurance elsewhere without those pre-existing terms, come January 2014, she isn't sure that those options will be any better.
"The Affordable Care Act is not necessarily a helpful plan when it comes to my case. Because I'm on this group plan, that makes it so I'm not able to get care until 18 months out from my effective date," said Chelsia.
While Chelsia's cancer is now in remission, she hopes that problems will hold off, at least until May.
"I'm just sad that the idea that people who are sick are a burden on our economic foundation of our country. And that we cannot care for the sick because somehow it's their fault," she said.
The Montana Insurance Commissioner's Office told us they have no jurisdiction over group plans such as Chelsia's.
We didn't receive an answer back from Allegiance regarding the plan's policy.