|By Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
But the voluntary compliance won't come free of charge and leaves out other key provisions of President
All of those provisions were part of the federal health care overhaul known as the Affordable Care Act. The law and its constitutionality have been argued before the
"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. ... It is important to ensure they know these provisions will continue,"
The fact that the announcement came from
"This is a positive development. A significant number of people will gain the benefits of these protections," said
"But let's not exaggerate the protections," he said.
The Monday announcement made no mention of offering coverage to people with preexisting conditions, the practice of medical underwriting (charging higher insurance rates based on gender, age and other medical risk factors) or limiting the amount of premium revenue that is spent on overhead.
"So while what United has promised is helpful, it's at best one-third of a loaf," he said.
Yet "offering" does not mean the same thing as "providing for free."
"All they are doing it is offering it,"
The provisions being voluntarily preserved by United are, in some ways, a public relations gambit, because there's a good chance that those provisions will be kept in place by the
Still, United's embrace is a signal of the popularity of certain portions of the Affordable Care Act, a point that the Obama administration has been trying to illustrate for months.
For example, the number of uninsured between the ages of 19 and 25 decreased by nearly 1 million from 2010 to 2011 due, in part, to the federal law (and similar state laws) allowing young adults to stay on parents' insurance coverage longer.
And on Monday, the
"While we are preparing for a number of scenarios that could come from the court, our greatest concern is the impact on consumers and businesses if the link between the responsibility of individuals to have insurance and the insurance market reforms is broken.
"If that's the case, the remaining reforms could backfire on consumers unless significant changes are made," he said.
The provisions that United has said it will stick with are relatively inexpensive, they're already factored into the coverage price and the announcement makes the insurer look good -- plus if insurers cut these benefits, customers probably will expect a corresponding premium drop, he noted.
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