It seems like everywhere you go in this country, you hear story after story of Americans who have been let down by the private health insurance system. Parents in Texas unable to buy coverage for their infant born with a heart defect. A Los Angeles woman forced to stop chemotherapy for months while fighting her insurer's claim that her cancer was a pre-existing condition. Patients whose life-saving treatments and therapies are cut short due to annual or lifetime coverage limits.
Yesterday, President Obama put an end to these unfair practices once and for all by announcing new rules made possible by the Affordable Care Act. These new rules will take effect for most plans starting on or after September 23rd. They will remove barriers between you and your doctor and help provide the peace of mind that health insurance will be there when you need it the most.
You can watch the President and me speak about the people who these rules will help and why we fought so hard to make them part of the new law:
A major goal of the Affordable Care Act is to put American consumers back in charge of their coverage and care.
Here are a few key ways these new rules will help do that:
- Stop insurance companies from imposing pre-existing condition exclusions on your children;
- Prohibit insurers from rescinding or taking away your coverage based on an unintentional mistake on an application;
- Ban insurers from setting lifetime limits on your coverage and restrict their use of annual limits on coverage;
- Ensure that you can choose the primary care doctor or pediatrician you want from your plan's provider network;
- Eliminate the need for a referral to see an ob-gyn;
- Prohibit insurance companies from requiring "prior approval" before you seek emergency care at a hospital outside your plan's network.
These rules effectively put in place a basic set of consumer protections known over the years as the "Patient's Bill of Rights." This is a concept introduced 15 years ago and supported by both Democrats and Republicans. After years of effort and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, I'm proud to say we are finally protecting those rights and putting health care back in the right hands: yours.
Now, let me touch on a few other updates about what we're doing to implement health care reform.
Over the past several weeks, we have:
- Ensured that if you like your current health care plan, you can keep it -- by issuing some new regulations for insurance plans that give you, your family, and your business more control over your health care choices;
- Worked to get coverage to one of the groups who is least insured, young people, through a new provision that will allow children up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents health care plan (a benefit that we successfully persuaded many insurers to implement ahead of schedule);
- Announced tax credits that will benefit millions of small businesses that have been struggling to provide care to their employees;
- Begun mailing $250 checks to tens of thousands of seniors who have reached the ‘donut hole' -- a term used to describe the gap in Medicare Part D prescription coverage -- to help seniors manage their health care costs;
- Announced new support to strengthen and expand the health care workforce, including increasing the number of primary care doctors and nurses.
You can learn more at:
The passage of the Affordable Care Act was an historic victory for the American people, laying a new foundation for relief from skyrocketing health insurance costs and for secure, stable, and affordable health care coverage. But passage brought us an important new challenge -- implementation -- and I look forward to sharing additional news and updates as we steadily turn the promise of health reform into reality.
Secretary of Health and Human Services