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Group says Virginians with pre-existing conditions would gain protection under new health care law

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Families USA says 1.7 million people would be affected

The Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act will provide new protections for a large number of Virginians, including nearly 1.7 million non-elderly people who have pre-existing health conditions and were at risk of insurance company coverage denials.

That’s the key finding of a report issued Thursday by the consumer health group Families USA. According to the report, the number of people receiving new protections includes 213,800 people in Fairfax County, Fairfax, and Falls Church; 91,000 in Virginia Beach, 87,200 in Manassas Park, Manassas, and Prince William County, and 83,800 in Clarke, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Warren Counties.

Under the Affordable Care Act, these Virginians can no longer be denied coverage, charged a higher premium, or sold a policy that excludes coverage of important health services simply because of a pre-existing condition. The protections are scheduled to begin in January 2014, but children with pre-existing conditions are already protected through the new law against coverage denials.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based, non-profit organization, the likelihood that a Virginian has a pre-existing condition grows as they age: nearly one in five (19.2 percent) people aged 18 to 24 have a pre-existing condition compared with 47 percent of people 55-64 years old.

“More than 1.7 million Virginians will now have the peace of mind and security they want for themselves and their families because they can no longer be denied coverage by an insurance company just because their doctor diagnosed a health problem,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said in a statement.

That number may be conservative, said Families USA, for two reasons. First, the analysis only looked at people with diagnosed conditions that are most likely to result in a denial of coverage. Second, many more Virginians likely have similar health conditions, but they have not yet been diagnosed because they are uninsured and didn’t see a doctor.

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