Sick people may face higher insurance costs

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Robin Shine Maddox has racked up $160,000 in charges for biopsies, chemotherapy, medications and scans since being diagnosed with breast cancer in February. Now the 55-year-old Mt. Airy resident looks forward to finishing treatment and being able to call herself a cancer survivor.

But even then, she’ll be among the one-fourth of Americans under age 65 who could be uninsurable on the individual market at any price, should the latest effort to water down federal insurance protections prevail. People insured through Affordable Care Act marketplaces, rather than a large employer, may be most nervous about a lawsuit brought by 20 Republican attorneys general that would let insurers return to the days when they could just say no to people like Maddox.

But doing away with that protection could affect even more Americans. On top of people who couldn’t buy insurance at all, there also are those with a pre-existing condition judged just severe enough to warrant much higher premiums. Anyone with a history of depression, an old smoking habit, or a chronic condition like diabetes could be at a serious disadvantage in paying for health care, should they lose large-employer coverage because they want to go to work for a small company, lose their job, or just want or need to retire before hitting Medicare age at 65.

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