By Lisa Zamosky
As the nation waits for the Supreme Court’s ruling about whether or not President Obama’s health reform law is constitutional, three large insurance companies have announced that no matter the outcome, they’ll preserve key consumer protections already gained under the law.
United Health Group was the first to announce its plans to keep in place parts of the Affordable Care Act that, despite the law’s general lack of appeal, are very popular with the American public.
The protections the company will keep in place include:
- Covering the full cost of preventive health care services
- Covering dependents up to the age of 26
- Providing coverage with no lifetime policy limits
- Not cancelling insurance policies retroactively except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation
- External appeals (which are reviewed by a third party) in cases when consumers disagree with their insurer’s decisions.
Shortly after United’s announcement, Aetna and Humana said they would follow suit. Blue Shield of California, however, declined to join its competitors, stating in this Washington Post blog that it doesn’t want to say anything ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision that would make it easier for the court to overturn the law. Despite that, it’s a good bet other insurers will follow in the footsteps of United, Aetna and Humana.
The protections listed above don’t cost insurers much to keep in place. In fact, the New York Times article announcing United’s plans said the company didn’t anticipate this move would impact customers’ premiums.
Each of the insurers remained silent, however, about other protections that were promised under the law, including whether they would continue to offer coverage to all children under the age of 19 (which is a requirement of the law currently in place) and not deny coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions or charge them more for their health plan (a requirement of the law scheduled to take effect in 2014).
If the law is struck down, I wouldn’t hold my breath for insurers to voluntarily agree to extend coverage to anyone who applies. The only reason insurance companies agreed to that provision is because the requirement that they guarantee coverage to everyone came along with the requirement that virtually all Americans buy health insurance. The promise of millions of new customers made that a fair trade for insurers.
It also established a mechanism to keep the insurance market in good health. Without requiring everyone to have health insurance, there will be little incentive for healthy people to buy coverage until they get sick and start to rack up medical costs. That leaves mostly sick people in the insurance pool, which could send the cost of health insurance skyward.
Does this Matter to You?
How important is it to you that insurance companies continue to let young adults stay on their parents’ insurance plans even if the health reform law is ruled unconstitutional? Have you taken advantage of preventive health care services such as cancer and diabetes screenings or immunizations that don’t require you to pay a co-pay or deductible? Does this move change your opinion of insurance companies?
Let your thoughts be known in the comments section below.