Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius framed the Democrats’ argument in a news release on Monday.
Sebelius pointed to a new analysis – done by her own department -- showing that without the Affordable Care Act, up to 129 million non-elderly Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition would be at risk of losing health insurance or being denied coverage altogether.
“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. “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.”
The HHS analysis found that “anywhere from 50 to 129 million (19 to 50 percent) of Americans under age 65 have some type of pre-existing condition. “Examples of what may be considered a pre-existing condition” (emphasis added) include heart disease, cancer, asthma, high blood pressure, and arthritis, HHS said.
According to HHS, older Americans ages 55-64 are at particular risk because 48 to 86 percent of them live with a pre-existing condition.
The news release also noted that up to 30 percent of people under age 65 who are in good health today “are likely to develop a pre-existing condition over the next eight years.”
HHS explained how insurance companies in many states – before the new health care law took effect – “could deny coverage, charge higher premiums, and/or limit benefits based on pre-existing conditions.” It then explains the “number of protections” that already are in place because of the Democrats’ law.
The news release also touts the new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, “which provides private insurance to those locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition.” The program “has already saved people’s lives,” HHS says, by covering services such as chemotherapy.
In a 21-page “Pledge to America” unveiled in September, Republicans offered a plan to “repeal and replace the government takeover of health care with common-sense solutions" that lower costs and save jobs.
“Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses,” says the Republican pledge. “We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition…(emphasis added).”
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told CNSNews.com in November that he does not back the government mandate forcing insurance companies to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions.
He said the states can set up high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions.
Costs will skyrocket, DeMint warned, if the federal government forces insurers to cover people who already are sick – because many people will wait until they’re sick to buy insurance.