- Obama’s regulatory agenda will cost U.S. economy $143B next year: report
- Patriot Act author on James Clapper: Fire, prosecute him
- Russia P.M. Medvedev: No amnesty for political prisoners
- Michigan GOP Senate hopeful reminds government is the ‘servant’
- Christmas, by Congress: Members mull a 15-cent tax on trees
- U.S. unemployment falls to five-year low of 7 percent; 203K jobs added
- World mourns Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life; burial set for Dec. 15
- Bill O’Reilly reminds: Nelson Mandela ‘was a communist’
- John Boehner says GOP should support gay candidates: ‘I do’
- Grass-Whopper: Pan-fried cricket burgers go over big in New York City
User-friendly health plan summaries at risk
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer groups are scrambling to salvage a popular provision of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul that suddenly seems to be in question.
This time it’s not Republican opposition they’re worried about, but the White House itself.
At issue is a requirement that health plans provide simple, standard summaries of coverage and costs to help consumers pick benefits that are right for them — a sort of “CliffsNotes” version of cryptic insurance company jargon.
Consumer advocates say they fear the administration may heed industry complaints that the regulation as proposed last summer is too costly, burdensome and intrusive. The rule is due to take effect this year and is undergoing final review by the White House. It would apply to all private and employer health plans, covering an estimated 180 million Americans.
“There is concern that the consumer protections we were hoping to see may not be in the final rule,” said Dr. LaShawn McIver, policy director for the American Diabetes Association. “Ultimately, we are looking for a consumer-friendly product that gives people the information they need about what levels of coverage they can expect.”
“The information available to Americans today is wholly inadequate for consumers to choose and understand the insurance coverage options available to them,” their letter said.
Simple-to-understand health plan summaries are the most popular provision of the health care law, which otherwise continues to divide the public. That’s according to a poll last November by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which found the summaries garnered support from 84 percent of Americans compared with 37 percent who viewed the overall law favorably.
Administration officials said they can’t comment on the specifics of regulations under review, but they sought to reassure the consumer groups, which were among the major backers of the health care law as it was being debated in Congress.
“Giving consumers the information they need and making the health care system more transparent is a top priority,” said Erin Shields, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department. “We’re confident the final rules … will meet that goal.”
A proposed template released by the department last summer included such basic details as information on premiums, deductibles and copays for doctor visits and hospitalization. Such information is now generally the norm in health plan summaries that most companies voluntarily provide their employees during annual open enrollment.
But the federal template also included so-called coverage examples of the cost of care for a typical individual for three common health conditions: normal childbirth, treating breast cancer and managing diabetes. Because all health plans would have to follow the same rules in compiling the information, it would allow consumers to directly compare insurance in ways they can’t now.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group representing the industry, complained that the timeline for introducing the comparisons this year is unrealistic, and the cost would be more than double what the government estimated, or $382 million for the first two years alone. That would drive up costs for employers and health plans, the industry said, at a time when many companies are struggling in a difficult economy.
Lynn Quincy, a senior policy analyst for Consumers Union, said the advocacy groups have learned that the requirement for employer plans to provide the comparisons may be delayed or weakened. Additionally, two of the coverage examples may be omitted at least initially, leaving only a comparison of maternity costs.
“We are very concerned that compared to the proposed rule that was released in August, the final rule we are expecting shortly will be weakened,” she said. “That would be very bad for consumers.”
Proposed template for health plan comparisons: http://tinyurl.com/6ryq8rl
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Activists urge Obama to go rogue, sidestep Congress
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- Rush Limbaugh: Obama trying to make Mandela death about himself
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- Obama administration issues permits for wind farms to kill more eagles
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- Chris Matthews: GOP less patriotic than South African white apartheid leaders
- MILLER: Obamacare enrollees include 101 members of the House of Representatives
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
Why can’t humans just be free to be humans?
Get in the middle of all the action inside and outside the boxing ring.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
White House pets gone wild!