Mary Lou Retton's health insurance explanation sparks some mental gymnastics (2024)

Mary Lou Retton performs on the balance beam in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Last week, she said she couldn't afford health insurance and owes big hospital bills after a serious illness. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Mary Lou Retton performs on the balance beam in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Last week, she said she couldn't afford health insurance and owes big hospital bills after a serious illness.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Former Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton spoke out last week on the NBC Today show about what she said was a rare pneumonia that almost killed her and resulted in an expensive, monthlong hospital stay.

It was a shocking reveal. One key comment jumped out for those who follow health policy: Retton said she was uninsured, blaming that lack of coverage on 30 orthopedic surgeries that count as "preexisting conditions," a divorce and her poor finances.

"I just couldn't afford it," Retton told host Hoda Kotb, who did not challenge the assertion.

Retton, who after winning the gold medal in 1984 became a well-known figure — "America's sweetheart," appearing on Wheaties boxes and claiming a variety of other endorsem*nts — did not provide details of her income, the illness, the hospital where she was treated or the type of insurance she was seeking, so it's hard to nail down specifics.

Nonetheless, her situation can be informative because the reasons she cited for not buying coverage — preexisting conditions and cost — are among the things the Affordable Care Act directly addresses.

Under the law, which has offered coverage through state and federal marketplaces since 2014, insurers are barred from rejecting people with preexisting conditions and cannot charge higher premiums for them, either. This is one of the law's most popular provisions, according to opinion surveys.

The ACA also includes subsidies that offset all or part of the premium costs for the majority of low- to moderate-income people who seek to buy their own insurance. An estimated "four out of five people can find a plan for $10 or less a month after subsidies on HealthCare.gov," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a written statement. Open enrollment on HealthCare.gov continues through Jan. 16.

Subsidies are set on a sliding scale based on household income, with a sizable portion going to those who make less than twice the federal poverty level, which this year is $29,160 for an individual or $60,000 for a family of four. Premium costs for consumers are capped at 8.5% of household income.

Still, "we know from surveys and other data that, even 10 years on, a lot of people are unaware there are premium subsidies available through ACA marketplaces," says Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.

Those subsidies are one of the reasons cited for record enrollment in 2024 plans, with more than 20 million people signing up so far.

To be sure, there are also many Americans whose share of the premium cost is still a stretch, especially those who might be higher on the sliding subsidy scale. Looking at the KFF subsidy calculator, a 60-year-old with a $100,000 income, for example, would get a $300 monthly subsidy but still have to pay $708 a month toward their premium, on average, nationally. Without a subsidy, the monthly cost would be $1,013.

And even with insurance, many U.S. residents struggle to afford the deductibles, copayments or out-of-network fees included in some ACA or job-based insurance plans. The ACA does offer subsidies to offset deductible costs for people on the lower end of the income scale. For those with very low incomes, the law expanded eligibility for Medicaid, which is a state-federal program. However, 10 states, including Texas, where Retton lives, have chosen not to expand coverage, meaning some people in this category cannot get either Medicaid or ACA subsidies.

"If her income was below poverty, she could have been caught in the coverage gap," says Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at KFF.

Attempts to reach a representative for Retton were not immediately successful.

One last point — ACA enrollment generally must occur during the annual open enrollment, which for 2024 plans opened Nov. 1 and runs until Jan. 16 in most states. But Retton provided no details on what kind of health insurance she shopped for, or when. And there are types of plans and coverage, for example, that fall outside the ACA rules.

Those include short-term plans, which offer temporary coverage for people between jobs, for example. There are also coverage efforts dubbed "health care sharing ministries," in which people pool money and pay one another's medical bills. Neither is considered comprehensive insurance because they generally offer limited benefits, and both can exclude people with preexisting conditions.

If she was considering insurance during a time of year that wasn't during the open enrollment period, Retton might have still been able to sign up for an ACA plan if she met requirements for a "special enrollment." Qualifying reasons include a residential move, loss of other coverage, marriage, divorce and other specific situations.

Retton excelled in landing difficult moves as a gymnast, but she may have missed the bar when it came to buying insurance coverage.

"You can be a very successful person in your other life and not understand American health care and get into a situation that maybe you could have prevented," says Joseph Antos, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

KFF Health News, formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling and journalism.

As an expert and enthusiast, I have access to a wide range of information and can provide insights on various topics. While I don't have personal experiences or opinions, I can provide factual information and cite relevant sources to support my responses.

Now, let's discuss the concepts mentioned in the article you provided.

Mary Lou Retton's Health Insurance Situation

Mary Lou Retton, a former Olympic gymnast, recently spoke out about her health insurance situation. She revealed that she was uninsured and faced significant hospital bills after a serious illness, which she referred to as a rare pneumonia. Retton attributed her lack of coverage to her preexisting conditions, including 30 orthopedic surgeries, a divorce, and her poor finances. She stated that she couldn't afford health insurance.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Preexisting Conditions

Retton's situation highlights the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in addressing issues related to preexisting conditions and cost. The ACA, which has been in effect since 2014, prohibits insurers from rejecting individuals with preexisting conditions and charging them higher premiums. This provision is one of the most popular aspects of the law.

Subsidies and Premium Costs

The ACA also provides subsidies to offset premium costs for low- to moderate-income individuals who seek to purchase their own insurance. These subsidies are set on a sliding scale based on household income, with a significant portion going to those who earn less than twice the federal poverty level. Premium costs for consumers are capped at 8.5% of household income. As a result, the majority of people can find plans for $10 or less per month after subsidies on HealthCare.gov.

Record Enrollment and Coverage Gap

The availability of subsidies has contributed to record enrollment in ACA plans, with over 20 million people signing up so far. However, it's important to note that some individuals may still find the cost of premiums to be a stretch, especially those who fall higher on the sliding subsidy scale. For example, a 60-year-old with a $100,000 income would receive a $300 monthly subsidy but still have to pay an average of $708 per month toward their premium. Without a subsidy, the monthly cost would be $1,013.

Additionally, even with insurance, many individuals struggle to afford deductibles, copayments, or out-of-network fees included in some ACA or job-based insurance plans. The ACA does offer subsidies to offset deductible costs for people on the lower end of the income scale. However, in states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid coverage, individuals in this category may not be eligible for either Medicaid or ACA subsidies.

Open Enrollment and Special Enrollment

Open enrollment for ACA plans generally occurs annually, with specific dates varying by state. However, individuals may still be able to sign up for an ACA plan outside of the open enrollment period if they meet requirements for a "special enrollment." Qualifying reasons for special enrollment include a residential move, loss of other coverage, marriage, divorce, and other specific situations.

Other Types of Coverage

It's worth noting that there are types of plans and coverage that fall outside the ACA rules. These include short-term plans, which offer temporary coverage for people between jobs, and "health care sharing ministries," where individuals pool money to pay each other's medical bills. However, these options generally offer limited benefits and can exclude people with preexisting conditions.

In conclusion, Mary Lou Retton's health insurance situation sheds light on the importance of the Affordable Care Act in addressing preexisting conditions and cost. The ACA provides subsidies to offset premium costs for low- to moderate-income individuals and prohibits insurers from rejecting people with preexisting conditions. However, some individuals may still find the cost of premiums and other healthcare expenses to be a challenge. Open enrollment for ACA plans occurs annually, but special enrollment may be available for those who meet specific criteria.

Mary Lou Retton's health insurance explanation sparks some mental gymnastics (2024)

FAQs

How old was Mary Lou Retton when she was in the Olympics? ›

The gutsy heroics of the then-16-year-old Retton from Fairmont, West Virginia landed her not one, but two perfect 10's, propelling her to become the first American woman to win a gold medal in the coveted All-Around competition.

What are some interesting facts about Mary Lou Retton? ›

In 1985 she became the first gymnast to be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Retton later became a motivational speaker and a television commentator. In addition, she occasionally acted, appearing as herself in such TV shows as Knots Landing and Baywatch.

What is a quote from Mary Lou Retton? ›

Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.

What does Mary Lou Retton do for a living now? ›

Retton went on to become a pop-culture figure, popping up in movies and TV shows, as well as competing on Dancing With the Stars in 2018. She also works as a motivational speaker.

Why did Mary Lou not have insurance? ›

During the “Today” interview, Kotb did ask Retton about her lack of health insurance. Retton said that insurance was simply too expensive for her, as a recently divorced woman with pre-existing health conditions.

Do Mary Lou Retton's kids do gymnastics? ›

Following in Mary Lou's footsteps, all of her daughters were involved in gymnastics at a young age — an athletic path the proud mom has been supportive of throughout their childhood. However, not all of them pursued the sport at a higher level. "I put my four daughters into a sport that I love.

Where did Mary Lou Retton start gymnastics? ›

Retton was inspired by watching Nadia Comăneci outshine defending Olympic two-event winner Olga Korbut on television at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, when she herself was eight years of age, and she took up gymnastics in her hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia.

Did Mary Lou Retton pass away? ›

Retton, who at the 1984 Games became the first American woman to win Olympic all-around gold, is now recovering at home and remains reliant on a nasal oxygen tube. In an interview that aired Monday on NBC's "Today" show, she said she's grateful to be alive.

What was Mary Lou Williams famous quote? ›

Mary Lou Williams famously stated, "It's not what you play, but how you play it." This quote encompasses the essence of her profound insight into the art of music. Williams recognized that the true brilliance lies not only in the notes being played, but in the way they are delivered.

What is a short motivational gymnastics quote? ›

Motivational and Inspirational Gymnastics Quotes
  • "Don't be afraid if things seem difficult in the beginning." - ...
  • "Go into the sport because you have fun doing it, not because of 'what ifs' and dreams of gold medals. ...
  • "Hard work is always hard work, for young gymnasts and old gymnasts.

Does Simone Biles have a famous quote? ›

Simone Biles, the world-renowned gymnast, once said, "Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you greater than any obstacle." This quote perfectly encapsulates her unwavering determination and self-belief. It implores us to trust in our abilities, even in the face of adversity.

What disease does Mary Lou Retton have? ›

What is Mary Lou Retton's illness? Mary Lou Retton's condition is a rare form of pneumonia, and she's was receiving treatment in the ICU, daughters Emma Jean Kelley and McKenna Kelley shared on Oct. 10, asking social media users for support.

Is Mary Lou Retton a millionaire? ›

After Mary Lou's daughter claimed that she was "fighting for her life" in a battle against a rare form of pneumonia, she ultimately raised more than $300,000 to help pay for her care. Mary Lou's net worth is reportedly roughly $2 million, although that hasn't been confirmed or verified by any independent source.

How much does Mary Lou Retton weight? ›

When did Mary Lou Retton perform in the Olympics? ›

Mary Lou Retton (born January 24, 1968) is an American retired gymnast. At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, she won a gold medal in the individual all-around competition, as well as two silver medals and two bronze medals. Retton's performance made her one of the most popular athletes in the United States.

What Olympic medals did Mary Lou Retton win? ›

As a member of the Silver Medalist Team from the U.S., she also won a individual Silver Medal in the Vault, as well as Bronze Medals in the Uneven Bars and Floor Exercise. Her five medals were the most won by any athlete at the 1984 Olympics.

How old was Katie Ledecky when she was in the Olympics? ›

Katie Ledecky's Olympic Success

Ledecky made her Olympic debut at London 2012 aged just 15. She won her first gold in the 800m freestyle, defeating reigning world champion Kate Ziegler to start a remarkable Olympic journey. Having won world titles in the 200 and 400 free, Ledecky was in a class of her own at Rio 2016.

Who was the female gymnast in 1984? ›

In the summer of 1984, United States gymnast Mary Lou Retton triumphed at the Summer Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, California. Retton went head-to-head with one of the best gymnasts in the world, Ecaterina Szabo of Romania, in the individual all-around competition.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Last Updated:

Views: 6672

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Birthday: 1993-01-10

Address: Suite 391 6963 Ullrich Shore, Bellefort, WI 01350-7893

Phone: +6806610432415

Job: Dynamic Manufacturing Assistant

Hobby: amateur radio, Taekwondo, Wood carving, Parkour, Skateboarding, Running, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Pres. Lawanda Wiegand, I am a inquisitive, helpful, glamorous, cheerful, open, clever, innocent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.