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 insurance.
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 said.
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 program.
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 leve
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