- Associated Press - Thursday, September 23, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) - The nation’s new health care law adds consumer protections that kick in Thursday, forcing insurers to meet new requirements. Coverage for children with pre-existing conditions is guaranteed. Lifetime dollar caps are eliminated. And insurers can no longer cancel policies retroactively for frivolous reasons when people get very sick.

The provisions will help the Cunninghams in Texas and the Morefields in central Illinois. But they come too late for the Janises in the Chicago suburbs. The three families shared their stories with The Associated Press.

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Name: Bob and Michelle Cunningham

Ages: Both age 42

Home: Plano, Texas

Problem: Son uninsurable because he’s a cancer survivor.

How law will help: Insurers can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.

The law’s provision guaranteeing coverage to children with health problems is a relief to Michelle and Bob Cunningham, whose 6-year-old son, Ryan, survived leukemia. They’ll now be able to buy a family policy that will cover him.

A mechanical engineer, Bob Cunningham was laid off from his job during the recession. The suburban Dallas family is now covered through COBRA insurance from his previous employer, but that coverage will expire.

Cunningham now does contract work and would like to start his own business. But to do that would mean buying insurance on the individual market, rather than getting coverage through an employer. Insurance brokers have told the Cunninghams they won’t write a policy that covers Ryan.

“They could cover the rest of us, but they couldn’t give it to us for Ryan,” Michelle Cunningham said. “We’re willing to pay a fair premium, but they weren’t willing to sell it to us at any price.”

Under the new health care law, the family will be able to buy insurance covering their son. That means Bob Cunningham can pursue his small business dream, instead of plugging away at a discouraging search for employment that provides health benefits.

“If the subject of health care reform comes up, I try to tell people about our situation every time I get a chance,” said Michelle Cunningham. “I want them to know that sick children really were being denied access to insurance.”

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