Matt McColm: If insurers were free to deny me coverage because of my diabetes, I'd have to close my business

Matt McColmAs a small business owner, an insurance broker, and a health insurance consumer with a pre-existing disease, I’m extremely concerned with the concerted effort to undermine many common-sense protections in the Affordable Care Act, especially the latest attempt from state attorneys general that takes aim at people with pre-existing conditions.

I’m a diabetic. Under the old rules—before the ACA mandated protections for people with pre-existing conditions—I’d be virtually uninsurable. Without these protections, at best my rates would skyrocket. At worst, I wouldn’t be able to find health insurance.

When the ACA came into effect, I immediately signed up for insurance on the exchange. This was a practical decision—the VA coverage I am eligible for only covers 80 percent of costs with no cap on my out of pocket expenses.  That means that in the event of a serious illness, I could go into a great deal of debt. My father had cancer and I need to be prepared. I can barely survive $7,000 in medical expenses, but I could never survive $70,000. My entire family is receiving health care through our state exchange. At this point, I don’t know how we would manage without it. 

If insurers were free to deny me coverage because of my diabetes, it would be personally devastating—health care cost would be insurmountable. Additionally, it would mean that I have to close the doors to my business. I’d have to abandon what I’ve built over the last seven years and find a job that could insure me to pay for my testing strips and other medical needs, which aren’t covered by the VA.

I wouldn’t be selling this business and reaping enormous profits. I’d be closing it down. Small brokerage firms like mine are virtually unsellable. I’ve seen others try to transfer their brokerage businesses, and it just doesn’t work. Anybody who has been in this business for more than a month knows that it can change faster in a week than other businesses ever will.

And while losing insurance and closing my business would be a serious setback for my family, given the services I provide—insurance brokerage from birth to death at no cost to the vast majority of my clients—the repercussions would be felt by dozens, if not hundreds of families in Central Washington, many of them low-income families with precious few insurance options. In rural areas in particular a repeal will strain the local providers with a possibility of one collapsing.

If sabotage plans are successful, I believe many more people than currently estimated will lose insurance because of their pre-existing conditions. Many new diagnoses have been made as a result of millions of people getting better care. Simply put, the ranks of those with pre-existing conditions is rising and will continue to rise.

Current developments such as the recent lawsuit brought by the states attacking the ACA and supported by the Trump Administration, as well as a new conservative Supreme Court Justice, mean that every measure possible should be taken to ensure millions of people—many small business owners such as myself—aren’t needlessly and cruelly thrown off their health insurance plans.

Matt McColm is co-owner of Suzie Health Solutions, an insurance brokerage firm in Washington.