Before the Affordable Care Act, Sebelius said that insurance companies in most states could deny individual coverage, charge higher premiums, and/or limit benefits based on pre-existing conditions. Surveys have found that 36% of Americans who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market encountered challenges purchasing health insurance for these reasons.
Although most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act don't take effect until 2014, several already are in place. For example, insurers can no longer limit lifetime coverage to a fixed dollar amount or take away coverage because of a mistake on an application. Young adults have the option of staying on their parents' coverage up to the age of 26 if they lack access to job-based insurance of their own, and insurers cannot deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition, HHS said.
Many uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions have already enrolled in the temporary high-risk pool program called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, which provides private insurance to those locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition. The PCIP program serves as a bridge until 2014, when insurance companies can no longer deny or limit coverage or charge higher premiums because of a pre-existing condition, HHS said.