How Accessible and Affordable Were Individual Market Health Plans Before the Affordable Care Act? Depends Where You Lived

by Sandy H. Ahn

Jan 24, 2017

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the landscape of the individual market looked much different than it does today, particularly for those in less than perfect health. For the most part, what state you lived in determined how easily you could purchase a health plan, the price you would pay, and what the plan would cover. Rules for insurers in the individual market varied from state to state, but in most states, if you had a pre-existing condition, you could be denied coverage, pay more, or have coverage for your pre-existing condition excluded from your health plan. As Congress debates repeal of the ACA and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, many policymakers have called for greater state flexibility in insurance regulation than currently exists under the ACA. It therefore is helpful to understand the range of consumer protections in the states before the ACA, and why the ACA included the insurance reforms it did. This issue brief summarizes state rules for the individual market on the eve of the Affordable Care Act.

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