The United Health Group, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, announced Sunday night that it planned to continue offering some of the popular consumer protections required by the federal health care law, even if the Supreme Court declares the entire law unconstitutional later this month.
The company, whose annual revenues top $100 billion, says it will continue to cover adult children up to age 26 on their parents’ policies, offer coverage without lifetime limits and provide preventive health care services like immunizations or screening for diabetes without requiring patient co-payments.
UnitedHealth declined to say what it planned to do regarding some of the more significant changes now required by the law in 2014, when insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing condition or ask those in poor health to pay more.
The company said it could work with other insurers to offer coverage to children with pre-existing medical conditions, which is currently required under the federal health care law. But UnitedHealth emphasized it could not take that step alone, and insurers have long argued that they are able to offer this kind of coverage only if other insurers shared in the cost.
It was unclear Sunday night whether other insurers would follow UnitedHealth’s move. But the rest of the industry is likely to feel some pressure to do so.
UnitedHealth said the cost of the provisions it was voluntarily continuing was not likely to affect the premiums its customers pay. Policy experts had speculated that insurers were likely to keep them in place, regardless of whether the law survived the legal challenge now before the Supreme Court.
UnitedHealth, which is a publicly held company based in Minnetonka, Minn., said it did not expect to see any changes to its financial results because of its decision.
“The protections we are voluntarily extending are good for people’s health, promote broader access to quality care and contribute to helping control rising health care costs,” said Stephen J. Hemsley, UnitedHealth’s chief executive, in the statement. The insurer offers plans covering nearly 27 million people.
Source: NY Times
By Reed Abelson