June 28--WEST PALM BEACH -- Private insurers are planning for more more customers and more regulations now that the Affordable Care Act has survived its High Court review.
Under the law's provisions, nearly all U.S. residents must get a health insurance policy or pay what the Supreme Court calls a tax. People who had been unable to find affordable insurance because of pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied by insurance companies.
About 3 million people in Florida are expected to join the ranks of the insured.
Jon Urbanek, senior vice president of employer markets for Florida Blue, the Florida branch of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, said his company is complying with the law and has started working on ways to communicate with potential customers.
The company expects 1 million new customers in Florida once the mandate for insurance kicks in next year because it currently holds 31 percent of market -- already about 4 million customers.
Urbanek said the company will work with the state and federal governments to ease costs associated with the new law. For instance, younger people will see higher premiums, because insurance companies can no longer charge older customers premiums that are sometimes triple that charged to young customers due to their higher health care costs.
"There are elements of the Affordable Care Act that will absolutely increase costs," Urbanek said.
Coventry Health Care Vice President for Public Affairs & Policy Matthew Eyles said the provider continues to try to improve access and affordability for consumers.
"We have always had concerns about the ACA adding to the problem of rising health costs and layering on new fees across our health care system," he said in a statement. "Now, as states face decisions about exchanges and Medicaid, we stand ready to work with them."
Health insurance companies and the state of Florida have a lot of work to do to get things in place for the start next year of mandated coverage, Urbanek said. Companies already added benefits such as keeping children on an adult's policy through age 26, a provision most people embraced and most companies had committed to keeping even if the law failed.
However, Florida has delayed putting exchanges in place for people without coverage to buy insurance and has delayed outreach to people who will be eligible for Medicaid under the expansion of coverage in the law. States can decline to expand Medicaid coverage without losing current payments from the federal government, the U.S. Supreme Court said Thursday. The law had provided for punitive reductions to get states to comply.
Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum who filed the first lawsuit against ACA the day it was signed said the state can let the federal government set up the exchanges for consumers.
"By yielding to the federal government they will give up their right to decide how the exchange program is administered," he said.
Aetna and Humana, two other large insurers in Florida, say they are complying with the law.
Humana said in a statement the law provides significant reforms to health care through guaranteed coverage, restricting ratings according to health and age and establishing exchanges to help people find coverage.
The company supports the law's provisions providing financial assistance to those who need it and stopping insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
"However, the health care reform law falls short in controlling the underlying cause of our nation's health care crisis: costs that are too high and rising too fast," Humana stated.
Aetna also said more needs to be done to fix health care.
"We believe there is still time -- if people can come together in a bipartisan way -- to improve quality and affordability," Aetna stated in a news release today. "That security is what Americans want and need."
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