Health insurer’s devious support for healthcare reform benefits


health insurance executive

Trust me...I know what's best for you!

UnitedHealth Group, Aetna and Humana recently pledged to keep various parts of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) regardless of how the Supreme Court rules. This is nothing more than a marketing ploy to keep certain provisions that consumers like while purging aspects of ACA the insurers don’t like.

You still get the seat belts

Health insurance companies have already started marketing mandatory provisions ACA as if they were voluntarily adding the benefits to plans like preventive office visits at no charge. In their press release, UnitedHealth Group announced they would keep preventive health services without a copay, allowing dependents to stay on parents coverage until age 26, eliminating life time benefit caps, keeping to “no recession” policy and the enhance appeals process. This is like car makers keeping mandatory safety items that the public now demands like air bags and seat belts.

Lower the rates? Why?

These ACA provisions are favored by consumers and are great for attracting and retaining customers. But what about the meat of healthcare reform: eliminating denial of individual health insurance for pre-existing conditions, holding companies accountable for unreasonable rate hikes, eliminating rate discrimination based on gender, establishing Accountable Care Organizations for Medicare and the recently added no cost birth control options. Even though they have factored these benefits into their rates, they would just as soon drop them. But don’t look for rates to decrease if they don’t have to offer all the ACA benefits.

Trust me…We know what’s best for you

This announcement was nothing less than a convenient argument in support of the ACA being struck down by the Supreme Court. Health insurance companies would never have instituted these benefits without the force of law. Now that their members have had a taste of reform, to rescind the popular elements would give them a marketing black eye. Blue Shield of California didn’t jump on the marketing band wagon and has chosen not to give any cover for the repeal of the ACA.

There’s a government program for that

However, I am sure the insurers would be happy to see the subsidy provisions of the ACA left in tact. Elements such as the federal government subsidizing the cost of individual health insurance if the family falls below a set income level, expanded Medicaid and state sponsored children’s health insurance programs. Corporate interests usually never protest when government subsidies help consumers purchase their products. They are all to happy to have a government program handle what they don’t want to service. They just don’t want their taxes raised to pay for the cost shifting the expense to the public sector.

Choice? Yes, my choice to deny you insurance

In a perfect world for the health insurance companies they would like to see the individual mandate ruled constitutional while retaining their right to deny insurance based on pre-existing conditions. This would force those consumers with the potential for expensive claims to be underwritten by a government program, subsidized by tax payers, protecting their profits.