HHS: Up To 129M U.S. Residents Under 65 Have Pre-Existing Conditions
As many as 129 million U.S. residents younger than age 65 have pre-existing medical conditions that could cause them to be rejected or charged higher rates by health insurers, according to an HHS study released on Tuesday, the Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, the study is the first attempt by the federal government to account for the total number of non-elderly residents with pre-existing conditions.
HHS released the study just before the GOP is scheduled to begin debating legislation (HR 2) that would repeal the federal health reform law. The overhaul includes provisions that preclude insurers from denying individuals coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
The study examined findings from a large federal survey of medical expenditures conducted in 2008. It found that one-fifth to one-half of non-elderly residents could experience complications in securing insurance because of chronic illnesses, such as:
- Heart disease; and
- High blood pressure.
Report Criticized by Industry, Republicans
The report was criticized by the insurance industry and Republicans for its findings and its timing.
Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, said the HHS report exaggerates the number of people with pre-existing conditions. He said most residents included in the report currently have insurance. According to Zirkelbach, such individuals could be at risk of rejection by insurers, but only if they sought to purchase coverage on the individual market, because people who obtain insurance through their job are guaranteed coverage.
Meanwhile, a Republican House aide said, "When a new analysis is released on the eve of a vote in Congress, it's hard to view it as anything but politics and public relations" (Goldstein, Washington Post, 1/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.