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WeNews: As the new health reform laws begin to take effect, advocates are reaching out to uninsured women who may not be aware that they can qualify for one of the new insurance pools. However, for many low-income women, the insurance is still too expensive, and many are struggling to pay the premiums.
"Coverage of people with pre-existing conditions was supposed to help women in particular, who suffer more chronic illness. But as the "high-risk pools" take effect, low-income women may have a harder time paying the premiums. Indeed, some eligible women may not tap the new insurance pools that have started taking effect for people with pre-existing conditions in the first phase of health reform.
"Uninsured people are difficult to reach," said Kraus, lead organizer with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, a longstanding advocacy group for low-income and unemployed people. "A single, unemployed woman who lives alone and only seeks medical care when she has a health emergency may be unaware that she could qualify for a policy that would give her access to physician visits, medications and other treatments she needs to stay healthy."
But the problem of accessing the new pools may go beyond public awareness. For many low-income women the insurance may simply cost too much. During the battles over health care financing overhaul, advocates for women's health strongly supported these "high-risk pools" since they would help people with chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, which afflict more women than men. Their focus, however, was on 2014, when insurance companies will no longer be permitted to deny coverage based on medical history and states would create exchanges where people will shop for coverage and be eligible for financial aid to pay premiums.
Women often have trouble affording premiums because they are more likely to work part-time or be unemployed and have fewer financial assets than do men."