By Joseph McCormack
Coloradans living with chronic diseases – including liver diseases such as Hepatitis C – who thought that life-saving treatments and medicines were out of their financial reach have the chance now to get the care they need and deserve thanks to Connect for Health Colorado. It’s vital that they get online and find the plan that best suits their medical needs.
For many years now, patients with chronic diseases, a population that includes one out of four Coloradans, have faced the dual daunting challenges of navigating the health care system to get the treatment they need and working through the often difficult and frustrating health insurance system. Many were shut out of the health insurance marketplace altogether due to their pre-existing conditions, and this in turn raised the specter of financial ruin to pay for treatments.
At the American Liver Foundation, we are continually informing patients that they are more empowered today than ever before. Connect for Health’s website and new search tools are continually improving. Patients can search for both the physicians and medicines that are covered for each plan. This is critically important since liver disease patients require specialized care, and often expensive medicines.
In fact, access to affordable medicines has truly been a life-saving advancement in the health insurance marketplace. Research and development have provided many people suffering with chronic diseases a second chance at life, and today there are new medicines available to treat some of the most complex and costly diseases. We are seeing these drugs attack not only the symptoms but the causes of debilitating diseases and completely curing patients of chronic diseases. Thanks to these new treatments, Coloradans are living longer with a higher quality of life – and saving the health care system significant funds by preventing hospitalizations or other costly services.
For example, thanks to plans covering two brand new Hepatitis C drugs through Connect for Health and patient assistance programs, Coloradans have access to an affordable cure. For decades, Hep C patients were told that their disease was simply treatable, not curable, and many faced the prospect of liver transplants that can cost $500,000 or more. This is a landmark advancement that not only is prolonging lives but is assisting these men and women to stay in their jobs and continue to be productive members of society.
As Dr. John Goff, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a fellow at the American College of Physicians and American College of Gastroenterology, says, “From the perspective of catastrophic illnesses, like liver disease, which can sneak up on a person, it makes perfect sense to have coverage for the then major expenses. This policy of having more (everyone) covered actually will lead to less overall cost as those who are uninsured create huge burdens on the finances of the health care system, which are better evened out when more people are insured up front. Lack of insurance can lead to costly delays and potentially worse outcomes for the patients.”
As people who fight against chronic disease daily, I and my colleagues are more optimistic than ever about the future. We are seeing the tide turning from a time when patients were double victims – of their disease and of the health insurance system.
Now that Coloradans truly are empowered to make choices, they must seize this new opportunity with energy and enthusiasm. It’s possible from the comfort of your home to get online, learn about the choices in front of you and make educated decisions about your health care future.
With the 2015 deadline on Feb. 15, it’s time to step forward and see the exciting opportunities that all Coloradans with chronic disease have to build a brighter future with a longer life, and a better quality of life. Don’t let this vital opportunity pass you by to pick the best plan for you and your health.
Joseph McCormack is executive director of the Rocky Mountain Division of the American Liver Foundation.
Opinions expressed in Health News Colorado represent the views of the individual authors.