129 Million Americans Face Losing Health Coverage


Without the Affordable Care Act, up to 129 million non-elderly Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition, like heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis or cancer, would be at risk of losing health insurance when they need it most, or be denied coverage altogether.

Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a new analysis on Monday arguing that this is the case.

The United Steelworkers of America (USW) publicised her analysis, saying that under the full range of policies in the Affordable Care Act to be enacted by 2014, Americans living with pre-existing conditions are free from discrimination and can get the health coverage they need.

The United Steelworkers of America (USW) publicised her analysis, saying that under the full range of policies in the Affordable Care Act to be enacted by 2014, Americans living with pre-existing conditions are free from discrimination and can get the health coverage they need.

With the passing of the act, families are free from the worry of having their insurance cancelled or capped when a family member gets sick, or going broke because of the medical costs of an accident or disease.

Repealing the law would once again leave millions of Americans worrying about whether coverage will be there when they need it.

‘The Affordable Care Act is stopping insurance companies from discriminating against Americans with pre-existing conditions and is giving us all more freedom and control over our health care decisions,’ said Secretary Sebelius.

‘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 pre-existing conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need.’

The analysis found that:

Anywhere from 50 to 129 million (19 to 50 per cent) of Americans under age 65 have some type of pre-existing condition. Examples of what may be considered a pre-existing condition include:

• Heart disease

• Cancer

• Asthma

• High blood pressure

• Arthritis

Older Americans between ages 55 and 64 are at particular risk; 48 to 86 per cent of people in that age bracket live with a pre-existing condition.

15 to 30 per cent of people under age 65 in perfectly good health today are likely to develop a pre-existing condition over the next eight years.

Up to one in five Americans under age 65 with a pre-existing condition – 25 million individuals – is uninsured.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, in the vast majority of states, insurance companies in the individual market could deny coverage, charge higher premiums, and/or limit benefits based on pre-existing conditions.

Surveys have found that 36 per cent 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.

A number of protections are already in place thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

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.

Many uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions have already enrolled in the temporary high-risk pool programme called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which provides private insurance to those locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition.

The PCIP programme – which has already saved people’s lives by covering services like chemotherapy – 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.

However, despite what Sebelius argues, Obama has signalled he sees his health care reforms as a bargaining chip in his negotiations with the Republicans.

In his State of the Nation address last month, he spoke about the new ‘health care law’ and said the message to Republicans is: ‘If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you.’

He continued: ‘Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt. . . So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. . .

‘This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we’ve frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years.

‘I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programmes. . . I recognise that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without.’

Obama added: ‘Now, most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 per cent of our budget.

‘To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough.

‘It won’t. . . This means further reducing health care costs, including programmes like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. . .

‘Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year – medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.’

• The United Steelworkers (USW) condemns the arrest of one of its international representatives by Mexican customs officers.

Manny Armenta, a USW sub-district director in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was arrested while on his way to meet with attorneys for the Mexican mineworkers’ union called Los Mineros.

The USW has been supporting the mineworkers who have waged a nearly four-year strike against Grupo Mexico with a copper mine property at Cananea in Mexico’s northern state of Sonora.

At about 2 pm (MST), a customs officer stopped Armenta’s car, which is leased by the union, accusing him of driving a stolen vehicle.

Armenta presented documentation to no avail.

After searching the vehicle with dogs, the officer attempted to extort a ‘fine’ of 185,000 pesos (about $15,000).

When Armenta refused to pay he was arrested, detained overnight, and released early on Tuesday, January 25 after posting a bond of 80,000 pesos (about $7,750).

Amenta’s car was impounded and it has not been returned.

Armenta’s wallet was taken from him in the arrest, but later returned, minus $700 in cash.

USW President Leo W. Gerard declared in a statement, ‘This outrageous treatment by Mexican federal authorities shows the extent of the government’s corruption.’

He added: ‘We demand that these bogus charges be dropped with the immediate return of the union property along with what belongs to Manny.’

He said: ‘It is ironic that although Mexican courts have issued 20 warrants for Germán Larrea – the owner of Grupo Mexico – the government has never been able to arrest him.

‘Yet they can arrest Manny because he is in Mexico helping the mineworkers defend their rights.’

On January 17-18, Mexican mineworkers’ leaders joined USW copper miners who met with officials of Asarco – a copper producer also owned by Grupo Mexico – at a ‘sound-off’ event in Tucson. The USW contract with Asarco expires in June. Armenta is a lead negotiator at Asarco.

Gerard said: ‘By arresting Manny, the Mexican government is trying to intimidate the USW copper miners from exercising our right to collective bargaining and showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Mexico.’

Commenting that Armenta was arrested on the same day the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Mexico in support of that country’s law enforcement actions on illegal drug activity, Gerard said: ‘I hope the US State Department will put as much energy into seeking justice for Manny and for the rights of workers at Cananea as they have in praising the Mexican government.’

The USW said that they would file a formal complaint with the US State Department.