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HHS: Health reform challenge jeopardizes people with pre-existing conditions
January 18th, 2011
WASHINGTON – More than 100 million Americans who have a pre-existing health condition could be denied health insurance coverage without the health care reform law, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday the new analysis showed that, without the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, up to 129 million non-elderly Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition — such as heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma or cancer — would be at risk of losing health insurance or be denied coverage.
The analysis revealed that without the Affordable Care Act protections to be enacted by 2014, one in two non-elderly Americans could be denied coverage or charged more due to a pre-existing condition, HHS reported.
"The Affordable Care Act is stopping insurance companies from discriminating against Americans with pre-existing conditions and is giving us all more freedom and control over our health care decisions," Sebelius said in a statement. "The new law is already helping to free Americans from the fear that an insurer will drop, limit or cap their coverage when they need it most. And Americans living with pre-existing conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need."
HHS' study comes amid a continued push by House Republicans to repeal President Obama's health care reform law.
That effort gained steam in the wake of the midterm elections, which saw the GOP take majority control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats. A full repeal of the health care reform law isn't likely, since Democrats have retained a slim majority in the Senate and President Obama could to veto any health care reform repeal bill. Still, House Republicans could trip up the law's implementation by squeezing funding, holding investigations and spurring states to challenge the law in court.
HHS stressed Tuesday that repealing the law would leave millions of Americans worrying about whether health coverage will be there when they need it. The analysis found that 50 million to 129 million of Americans under age 65, or 19% to 50% of the population, have a pre-existing condition.
In addition, the study indicated that those ages 55 to 64 are at particular risk, with 48% to 86% of people in that age range living with a pre-existing condition. Another 15% to 30% of people under age 65 in good health now are likely to develop a pre-existing condition over the next eight years, and up to one in five Americans under age 65 with a pre-existing condition, or 25 million people, is uninsured, according to the analysis.
HHS reported that before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies in the individual market in most states could deny coverage, charge higher premiums, and/or limit benefits based on pre-existing health conditions. The department said that surveys have found that 36% of Americans who tried to buy individual health insurance directly from an insurer encountered challenges because of pre-existing conditions.
Many uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions have enrolled in a temporary high-risk pool program called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which provides private insurance to those locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition, HHS said. The program is intended to serve as a bridge until 2014, when insurance companies will no longer be able deny or limit coverage or charge higher premiums because of a pre-existing condition, the department added.