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Report: Nearly 160,000 Alaskans with Pre-Existing Conditions Gain Needed Protection from Insurance Denials under Health Care Law

Washington, D.C. — The Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act will provide significant new protections for a huge number of Alaskans including nearly 160,000 non-elderly people in the state who have pre-existing conditions and who were at risk of insurance company denials.

These Alaskans constitute more than one in four (25.1 percent) non-elderly people in the state.

This is the key finding of a report issued today by the consumer health group Families USA. According to the report, the number of people receiving these new protections includes 60,900 people in the Borough of Anchorage and 33,000 people on the Kenai Peninsula.     

Under the Affordable Care Act, all of these Alaskans can no longer be denied coverage, charged a higher premium, or sold a policy that excludes coverage of important health services simply because of a pre-existing condition. These protections begin in January 2014, but children with pre-existing conditions are already protected against coverage denials through the new law.

The likelihood that Alaskans have pre-existing conditions grows as they age: nearly one in five (19.9 percent) people aged 18-24 have a pre-existing condition; nearly one third (31.7 percent) of  35- to 44-year-olds have such a condition; as do almost half (47.0 percent) of those aged 55-64.

“Nearly 160,000 Alaskans will now have the peace of mind and security they want for themselves and their families because they can no longer be denied coverage by an insurance company just because their doctor diagnosed a health problem,” Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said today.

“Teachers, policemen, firefighters, businessmen, laborers, and professionals in all walks of life have for decades faced the threat of physical and financial devastation because they could not buy a health insurance policy due to their pre-existing conditions,” Pollack said. “The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, stops this discrimination and opens the door to quality coverage for all Alaskans.” 

The report details the health and financial risks that people face when they can’t obtain health coverage: They delay or forgo care due to cost, and they are less likely to get preventive care and cancer screenings. They are also less likely to have a usual source of care outside of an emergency room. And, because medical debt is strongly linked to bankruptcy, uninsured Americans are more likely to suffer financial catastrophe because of medical bills.

According to Families USA, the numbers in the report are conservative for two reasons. First, the analysis looks only at people with diagnosed conditions that are most likely to result in a denial of coverage; many other conditions could also lead to a denial of coverage or a discriminatory premium. Second, many more Alaskans likely have similar health conditions, but they have not yet been diagnosed because they are uninsured and haven’t seen a doctor.

A copy of the Families USA report, “Worry No More: Alaskans with Pre-Existing Conditions Are Protected By the Health Care Law,” is available at http://familiesusa2.org/assets/pdfs/pre-existing-conditions/Alaska.pdf

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