Home Fairfield Column: The new quest for medical coverage

Column: The new quest for medical coverage

BY MARYLAND M. GRIER AND JENN WHINNEM

Christina Kazanas, founding partner of HK Consulting Group LLC in Bridgeport, credits the Affordable Care Act with helping her keep her firm afloat.

“When you’re the owner of a micro-business, your business and personal finances are very tightly tied together,” Kazanas said. “Before the ACA, my health care coverage was so expensive, I was at risk of having to give up my business.” In June 2013, Kazanas’ COBRA-sponsored coverage (under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) was set to expire. She was deemed uninsurable by major carriers and denied coverage.

Christina Kazanas
Christina Kazanas

“I was facing a scary gap of six months between losing the plan I had and the ACA going live,” she said. “I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but what was I supposed to do until then?”

One year later, with the new health plan she purchased through Access Health CT, her business is thriving to the point where she and her business partner are looking to hire for the first time.

“What if this had happened in June of 2012, and not 2013?” Kazanas said. “There was no light at the end of the tunnel at that point. I would have had to leave my business for a job that offered health insurance.”

Kazanas realized her dream of entrepreneurship in 2010 when she established HK Consulting, the mission of which is to help nonprofit clients fundraise to support their organization. Before that, Kazanas was working for a municipal government in Fairfield County and had good health benefits. Upon her decision to leave and start her firm, she was able to extend her coverage through COBRA for two years. She paid a monthly premium of $575 for medical and dental benefits.

“As the expiration date for my coverage approached, I began to research my options on the individual market,” Kazanas said.

The plans she found were not as affordable as her previous one. Still, she applied to one carrier for an acceptable plan.

“When I got my denial notice, it was like they just cut and pasted from my application,” she said. “Every single thing I had written down was a pre-existing condition, including removal of a nasal polyp. How do you deny someone for a nasal polyp?”

Two weeks later, as Kazanas was still figuring out what to do next, she got a call from her doctor about the results of her mammogram, which revealed a suspicious mass that needed immediate testing.

“I was two weeks away from having no health insurance and now I’m facing the possibility of breast cancer,” Kazanas said. “I called up the Connecticut Insurance Department in tears. And they told me I could get coverage in the high-risk pool, which would cost nearly $1,200 per month and high out-of-pocket costs. I would in effect be tripling my health care expenses.”

Kazanas took stock. She knew she could manage paying for the high-risk pool premium for six months, but with the sacrifice of exhausting her personal savings. When open enrollment under the ACA began, Kazanas chose an Access Health CT plan.

She now pays $440 as her monthly premium, and she encourages other would-be entrepreneurs to examine their options.

“Not enough is being said about how the ACA can help entrepreneurs, in particular women,” Kazanas said. “Health insurance costs are a big reason why more people don’t take the leap, leave their 9-to-5 jobs and start their own businesses. The security you get from having affordable insurance that will always be there is invaluable — it allows you to accurately budget for health costs and can prevent personal and business financial ruin if you get sick.”

HK Consulting Group has seen yearly growth since 2010, with nearly $250,000 in gross revenue last year.

Maryland M. Grier is senior communications officer and Jenn Whinnem is digital media manager for the Hartford-based Connecticut Health Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving health care services for underserved communities and populations in the state. Contact Grier at maryland@cthealth.org and Whinnem at jenn@cthealth.org.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder if she had received her renewal notice with new premium yet? We got ours, and the premiums went up by 50%, the total deductible doubled and the maximum out-of pocket went up by 66% Not so “affordable” for this self-employed couple any more, with a potential total increase in annual expenses raised by around $10,000.
    But, hey at 58, I have free birth control, right? Looks like the joke’s on me because I don’t need it any more, but some of the medications I DO need aren’t covered by this ACA compliant policy.

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