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U.S.: 129M have pre-existing conditions

Jan. 18, 2011 at 2:34 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- As many as 129 million people may have pre-existing conditions that make getting insurance difficult, a U.S. government report indicates.

The Health and Human Services Department found that one-fifth of those under age of 65 would be eligible for high-risk insurance pools offered in states, The Washington Post reported Tuesday -- as Republican leaders in the U.S. House prepared to open debate on a bill to repeal the healthcare reform law enacted by the previous Congress. Another large group of people suffer from conditions that would either raise their premiums or would not be covered by their policies.

Together, the two groups are about half the population not eligible for Medicare, the report said.

"Americans living with pre-existing conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says in a statement to accompany the report when it is released Tuesday.

Republicans called the report an effort in "public relations." Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the major industry trade group, said the report exaggerates the problem because most people get health insurance coverage through their jobs.

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