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Local News

Some Santa Barbara County Residents Catch a Break with Health Insurance Rates

Under national health-care bill, county patients with pre-existing conditions will have access to lowest prices in California

Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties will boast the lowest health insurance rates in California for people with pre-existing conditions when the state begins implementing the federal health-care bill in September.

Rolling out in phases, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 soon will make insurance plans available to those who previously have been uninsurable.

Applications are available now, and eligible candidates must be have been without credible coverage for the six months preceding applications, been denied insurance, or only offered plans with premium levels above the new rates because of a documented pre-existing conditions.

Instead of waiting for a federal government implementation, California and 27 other states chose to go ahead on their own, while 22 states rely on the federal government. California will receive $761 million to operate the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan through the end of 2013. The plan is being operated by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board.

Rates for the three Central Coast counties are lower than all other California regions, with monthly premiums ranging from $127 for those under 15 years old to $899 for individuals over 74.

While California currently operates a high-risk pool insurance program, it serves about 7,100 people. According to the California HealthCare Foundation’s research, about 20 percent of Californians are uninsured, and Santa Barbara County has 40,000 to 50,000 uninsured.

Local health providers — Cottage Health System, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, to name a few — will likely all be affected by the federal bill’s implementation, and many patients already use government programs to pay their bills.

The health-care bill, passed by congressional Democrats in March, remains deeply controversial, with nearly six in 10 Americans favoring repeal. A Rasmussen Reports survey last week found 55 percent of likely voters favoring repeal and 38 percent opposed. Support for repeal has ranged from 52 percent to 60 percent since the bill’s passage.

Additionally, 60 percent of all voters nationwide believe health care costs will rise under the new plan, just a point below the highest level measured so far, in mid-July.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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