A government study released today shows that up to 50 percent of Americans under age 65 have some type of pre-existing health condition.
The study predicts that 30 percent of currently healthy Americans will likely develop a pre-existing condition over the next eight years.
Under the Affordable Care Act -- the President's signature health care reform legislation -- policies set to be in place by 2014, these 129 million Americans can receive health coverage despite their previous conditions; if the new law is repealed, millions could risk losing health care or being forced to pay more.
The Department of Health and Human Services has released these figures on the same day Republican leaders plan to debate a bill to repeal the new health care law entirely. GOP leaders claim the study is an effort to sway American public opinion in favor of the current law.
Republicans immediately disparaged the analysis as "public relations." An insurance industry spokesman acknowledged that sick people can have trouble buying insurance on their own but said the analysis overstates the problem.
Conditions insurance companies may consider "pre-existing" range from heart disease, cancer and diabetes to asthma, high blood pressure and arthritis. Uninsured people with such conditions now have access to health insurance through a temporary Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, which serves as a bridge until 2014.
Before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies determined whether something was considered a pre-existing condition, and could thus refuse to sell a policy or charge two or three times more for coverage.