WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- About 50,000 Americans with pre-existing conditions have become insured since a program began in 2010 as a result of healthcare reform, health officials said.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the Affordable Care Act's Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan -- known as the PCIP -- is helping fill a void in the insurance market for consumers with pre-existing conditions who are denied insurance coverage and are ineligible for Medicare or Medicaid coverage.
"For too long, Americans with pre-existing conditions were locked out of the health care system and their health suffered," Sebelius said in a statement. "Thanks to healthcare reform, our most vulnerable Americans across the country have the care they need."
The program is a bridge that will continue until Jan. 1, 2014, when the law will prohibit insurers from denying coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition, and new competitive marketplaces -- Affordable Insurance Exchanges -- will give consumers the opportunity to shop for affordable insurance coverage that best suits their needs, Sebelius said.
In many cases, PCIP participants have been diagnosed with and need treatment for serious healthcare conditions such as cancer, ischemic heart disease, degenerative bone diseases and hemophilia.
To qualify, people applying for PCIP must:
-- Have been without health coverage for at least six months,
-- Have a pre-existing condition or have been denied health coverage because of a health condition.
-- Be a U.S. citizen or a legal resident of the United States.