TUESDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials
announced Tuesday that a reduction in premiums and an easing of
standards for the federally administered Pre-Existing Condition
Insurance Plan will allow more Americans to get health
Premiums under the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which
is part of the Affordable Care Act, will drop as much as 40 percent
in 18 states. And standards for eligibility will be eased in 23
states and Washington, D.C., said officials from the Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS).
"Before the law, too many people were turned away or shut out of the insurance market," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a morning press conference.
"You could be denied coverage if you were a breast cancer survivor or if you had a pre-existing health condition like diabetes or asthma. This forced people to skip care or medication and it has bankrupted way too many families and left people's health at risk," she added.
The reduction in premiums will offer real savings for people,
Sebelius explained. "For example, consumers in Virginia will save
almost $1,200 a year thanks to the premium reduction," she
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan was designed to help
people with pre-existing health conditions get health insurance
until 2014 when insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to
people with pre-existing conditions.
In 23 states the federal government administers the program,
while the other states use federal funds to operate their own
It's in 18 states where the federal government operates the
program that premiums will drop. Decreasing premiums in these
states will bring the premiums in line with rates already
established in these states, which is mandated by the Affordable
Care Act, HHS officials said.
In the remaining states, premiums were already at state levels
and will not change.
"We are not just lowering premiums, we are making it easier for people to become eligible for the program," Sebelius said.
Beginning in July, anyone applying for health insurance coverage
only needs to show a letter dated in the last year from a doctor, a
physician's assistant or nurse practitioner stating that he or she
has a pre-existing condition.
Applicants will no longer need to have a letter from an
insurance company denying coverage, Sebelius said.
In February, children under 19 were given this option, which is
now being extended to all ages. To take advantage of this program
you must be a U.S. citizen and have had no insurance coverage for
Starting this fall, the federal government will begin paying
insurance agents and brokers to help enroll people in the program.
The goal is to get more eligible people to take advantage of the
From November 2010 through March 2011, enrollment in all
Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan programs increased 129
percent, with more than 18,000 people now enrolled, officials
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a comprehensive
health plan that includes primary and specialty care, hospital
care, prescription drugs, home health and hospice care, skilled
nursing care and preventive health and maternity care.
According to HHS officials, the program limits out-of-pocket
costs. Eligibility is not based on income and those who enroll do
not pay a higher premium because of a pre-existing medical
For more on the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, visit the