President Obama, promoting his health care plan in 2009.
(Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP)
David Jackson, USA TODAY
With re-election safety behind them, President Obama and aides are moving forward with new rules governing their landmark 2010 health care law.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday it is putting in place provisions that would make it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, enable consumers to compare health plans, and encourage employers to promote employee wellness.
"The Affordable Care Act is building a health insurance market that works for consumers," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and GOP congressional candidates had made repeal of the law a major part of their campaigns; the president defended the law he referred to as "Obamacare."
The administration described Tuesday's actions:
-- A proposed rule that, beginning in 2014, prohibits health insurance companies from discriminating against individuals because of a pre-existing or chronic condition. Under the rule, insurance companies would be allowed to vary premiums within limits, only based on age, tobacco use, family size, and geography. Health insurance companies would be prohibited from denying coverage to any American because of a pre-existing condition or from charging higher premiums to certain enrollees because of their current or past health problems, gender, occupation, and small employer size or industry. The rule would ensure that people for whom coverage would otherwise be unaffordable, and young adults, have access to a catastrophic coverage plan in the individual market.
-- A proposed rule outlining policies and standards for coverage of essential health benefits, while giving states more flexibility to implement the Affordable Care Act. Essential health benefits are a core set of benefits that would give consumers a consistent way to compare health plans in the individual and small group markets. A companion letter on the flexibility in implementing the essential health benefits in Medicaid was also sent to states.
-- A proposed rule implementing and expanding employment-based wellness programs to promote health and help control health care spending, while ensuring that individuals are protected from unfair underwriting practices that could otherwise reduce benefits based on health status.