How One Patient's Health Care Outlook Has Changed

Melissa Block talks with Shawn Pollack of Oshkosh, Wis., who says he's a "healthy young guy" who only qualifies for expensive insurance because he's considered high risk. He talks about the headache his health coverage has been since he was laid off in 2009, and what today's ruling could mean for him and people like him.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We want to find out what today's ruling means for someone who's had difficulty with his health-care coverage. So we're turning to Shawn Pollock. He's 30 years old. He said he had excellent benefits until he was laid off from his job at a TV station, in 2009. He couldn't afford insurance, even under COBRA. And then he got viral meningitis and was hospitalized, leading him to be labeled high risk when he applied for insurance.

Shawn Pollock joins me now from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Welcome to the program.

SHAWN POLLACK: Thank you.

BLOCK: And Shawn, I understand that now, you do have health insurance. It's insurance for a high-risk pool of patients. Do you think that the Affordable Care Act, now that it's been upheld by the Supreme Court, will change things for you?

POLLACK: I really hope so. The insurance I have now is sufficient, but it's just so expensive. And I've been denied insurance from several other companies. And so I went to the only route that I could, which was this health insurance risk-sharing plan. It's been a bit of a lifesaver for me, so that I can least have some sort of coverage right now.

BLOCK: And do you figure you can shop around once the law fully goes into effect, assuming it does; that you can shop around, and find something that's more affordable?

POLLACK: I hope so. I think a lot of people thought everyone can shop around already. But the problem was that I felt like for me, personally, I wasn't even allowed in the marketplace. I was shopping around. I did apply for other providers. But I was completely denied based on what they considered to be a high-risk condition - which was me being ill one time but otherwise, very healthy.

BLOCK: How much were you following this ruling today? Were you glued to a computer at 10 o'clock, trying to figure out what the court had done?

POLLACK: Absolutely. It was a bit confusing, initially.

BLOCK: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

POLLACK: But I think once I read through everything, I could breathe a bit of a sigh of relief.

BLOCK: Just a bit of a sigh of relief - so you weren't jumping up and down.

POLLACK: Well, I'm still unsure how everything's going to shake out. You know, if things are still up in the air, or if Congress and the courts are still going to be involved, and this is going to be politics as it has been, then I don't know. Then I'm left with the plan I currently have - which, you know, results to being nearly a quarter of my current take-home pay. And I'll wait. I'll wait; I'll do what I can. But I can't go without insurance again. I tried that once, and it was awful.

BLOCK: Republicans have said they will vote to repeal the law. In fact, they've scheduled a vote on repeal for next month. What do you think about that?

POLLACK: It's scary to me. I understand their perspective; you know, allowing people to cross borders and compete. But in the end, I feel like I still haven't gotten to compete - or shop around in this marketplace. It's one of those things where I get where they're coming from, but the reality isn't what they're saying it is. And so I'm left with the options I have - which is unaffordable health care.

BLOCK: Well, Shawn Pollack, it's good to talk to you. Thanks so much, and best of luck.

POLLACK: Thank you.

BLOCK: That's Shawn Pollack in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He is a supporter of the health-care law, and he struggled to obtain and afford health insurance.

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