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New Health Insurance Rules Hailed as Patient's Bill of Rights

Marking the 90 day anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama used the occasion to announce the implementation of a Patient’s Bill of Rights. After meeting privately with health insurance CEOs and state insurance commissioners, the White House sent a signal to insurers and to the public that the President intends to monitor how the insurance industry responds to the law’s implementation. In warning industry executives to refrain from using the law as an opportunity to boost unjustifiable rate increases, the Administration unveiled new regulations that will govern how new consumer protection provisions are implemented.

The Patient’s Bill of Rights rules are designed to clamp down on some of the most notorious practices of the insurance industry. After September 23rd,

  • Insurers are prohibited from denying coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions.
  • Certain annual and all lifetime limits on benefits would be prohibited.
  • Insurers would no longer be allowed to drop coverage when policy holders get sick.

The rules also ensure the ability choose a primary care doctor or pediatrician, lift the requirement of needing a referral to see an OB-GYN and dismiss the need for prior approval if out of network emergency care is needed.

While the new law does not grant the federal government authority to regulate premiums, Obama pointed to states such as Maine, Pennsylvania and New York that are investigating sudden spikes in health insurance rates. Pennsylvania is investigating the state's nine largest health insurers over rate increases that Governor Ed Rendellcalls exorbitant. California officials have investigated WellPoint's proposed 39% increases that the insurer later called a mistake.

The 196 pages of new regulations were simultaneously released by the Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services and come on the heels of findings from a Kaiser Foundation survey that premiums for the policies most recently bought by individuals have increased by an average of 20 percent.

Resources
Health Care for America Now (HCAN) - Insurance Industry Inflates Rates While Falsely Blaming New Health Care Law
The White House - Background and Fact Sheet on the New Patient's Bill of Rights
Kaiser Family Foundation - Survey of People Who Purchase Their Own Insurance
New York Times - Obama Says Health Law Shouldn't Be Excuse to Raise Rates
Reuters - Obama warns health insurers not to hike rates
Federal Register - Interim Final Rules - Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Preexisting Condition Exclusions, Lifetime and Annual Limits, Rescissions, and Patient Protections