Before the Affordable Care Act, sick people with pre-existing conditions did have some access to insurance, through state-run high-risk insurance pools. As ProPublica explains on Friday, many of those programs are closing on December 31, which means people will need to sign up for insurance through a functioning federal or a state-run exchange. The Obama administration has promised that Healthcare.gov will work smoothly by November 30, which gives shoppers a little more than two weeks to enroll in coverage effective January 1.
There are insurance programs for people with pre-existing conditions?
Yes. Obviously, people with pre-existing conditions have been denied coverage and dropped from plans prior to Obamacare, but there were state-run programs that provided temporary coverage to high-risk individuals who had been uninsured for at least six months. The rules varied, but Oklahoma's high-risk pool has a lifetime benefit maximum of $1 million and California's high risk pool capped lifetime benefits at $750,000, and annual benefits at $75,000.
Then there's the federal and state-run (in 10 states) Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, created by Obamacare to tide people over until next January. Like state high-risk pools, the program accepted individuals with pre-existing conditions who had gone six months without health insurance (including a limited benefit plan). These plans will end when Obamacare insurance kicks in on January 1.