Affordable Care Act protects 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions

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Repealing the Affordable Care Act would make as many as 129 million non-elderly Americans with preexisting health conditions such as heart disease, elevated BP, arthritis or cancer, susceptible to losing or being denied health insurance coverage, according to an analysis from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“The new law is already helping free Americans from the fear that an insurer will drop, limit or cap their coverage when they need it most,” HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in press release.

Older Americans aged 55 to 64 years account for the majority  (48% to 86%) of individuals with pre-existing conditions, about 1-in-5 of whom are uninsured, the analysis found.

Furthermore, the report stated that an additional 15% to 30% of currently healthy people aged younger than 65 years are likely to develop a pre-existing condition within the next eight years.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, it was common for health insurers to limit the coverage provided for individuals and small business based on pre-existing conditions — denying coverage, limiting benefits or charging higher premiums.

“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.

Health reform policies enacted in 2010 and 2011 have already made improvements, making it illegal for insurers to limit lifetime coverage to a fixed dollar amount or to deny coverage based on an application mistake.

Other protections granted under the act include extending the age that young adults are eligible to stay on their parents' insurance coverage to 26 years, and making insurers unable to deny coverage to children due to a pre-existing condition.

The full range of Affordable Care Act policies will be enacted in 2014, when individuals and small businesses will gain access to more insurance choices in competitive health insurance exchanges.

 In the meantime, those locked out of insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions can participate in a temporary high-risk pool program called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), according to HHS. PCIPs are available in every state.

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