Half of Americans Have Preexisting Medical Conditions

02 Feb

There are many debates over our healthcare system and how to improve it. One them involves people with pre-existing medical conditions and whether or not it is okay for insurance companies to discriminate against people who have them. Now, news of how many people who have preexisting conditions sheds some light on how important this aspect of the healthcare debate really is.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius just released a study that states that up to half of all Americans under the age of 65 have medical problems that could fall under the definition of preexisting conditions. In the report, depending on the definition of a preexisting condition, between 17 and 46 percent of Americans may have problems getting health insurance. That means as many as 129 million Americans are at risk of not qualifying for health insurance, or at least only being eligible for state high-risk pools which are special coverage for people denied insurance due to their medical history.

The researchers at the Health and Human Services Department used findings from an expansive federal survey of medical expenditures in 2008, the most recent available, to come to the conclusion of how many people faced problems of preexisting health issues.

The ailments that may put people at risk of not qualifying for health insurance include cancer and chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, asthma and high blood pressure.

There is push back to these findings, both from Republicans who say that it is partisan PR on behalf of the Democrats and from the Insurance industry itself.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the health insurance lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans, says that even though his group supports the reform of the individual insurance market, "this report exaggerates the number of people who are impacted."

If the provision for protecting people with preexisting conditions remains intact, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will forbid insurance companies to charge sick patients more or reject sick healthcare applicants.

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