Up to 129 million people younger than 65 in the United States have some type of preexisting health condition that could limit their ability to secure health insurance, according to a report released today by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The report’s release came just hours before the House was set to begin consideration of a Republican-backed bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which, in part, eliminates preexisting conditions as a reason for denying health insurance to an individual.
The report noted that people between ages 55 and 64 are at particular risk, with up to 86% having a preexisting condition. The DHHS analysis also suggests that up to 30% of people under age 65 who are in good health today are likely to develop a preexisting condition over the next 8 years and that up to 25% of people under age 65 who are living with a preexisting condition are uninsured.
DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement issued in conjunction with the report’s release used the findings to bolster the defense of the Affordable Care Act, saying, “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 preexisting conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need.”
A Washington Post story quotes a Republican House aide, speaking anonymously, who suggested that the timing of the DHHS report’s release could just be “politics and public relations.”