"We are not just lowering premiums, we are making it easier for people to become eligible for the program," Sebelius said.
Beginning in July, anyone applying for health insurance coverage only needs to show a letter dated in the last year from a doctor, a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner stating that he or she has a pre-existing condition.
Applicants will no longer need to have a letter from an insurance company denying coverage, Sebelius said.
In February, children under 19 were given this option, which is now being extended to all ages. To take advantage of this program you must be a U.S. citizen and have had no insurance coverage for six months.
Starting this fall, the federal government will begin paying insurance agents and brokers to help enroll people in the program. The goal is to get more eligible people to take advantage of the program.
From November 2010 through March 2011, enrollment in all Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan programs increased 129 percent, with more than 18,000 people now enrolled, officials said.
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a comprehensive health plan that includes primary and specialty care, hospital care, prescription drugs, home health and hospice care, skilled nursing care and preventive health and maternity care.
According to HHS officials, the program limits out-of-pocket costs. Eligibility is not based on income and those who enroll do not pay a higher premium because of a pre-existing medical condition.
For more on the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, visit the HealthCare.gov.
SOURCE: May 31, 2011, teleconference with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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