Insurance Director: Health Law Helping Consumers

Associated Press reports:

“CHICAGO — While the anniversary of the Obama administration’s health law inspired events to publicize the law’s “broken promises” elsewhere, Illinois’ top insurance regulator contended consumers are better protected because of it.

Illinois Insurance Department Director Michael McRaith said Wednesday that next year will bring rebates to some consumers because of a requirement in the law. The requirement may prove difficult for some small insurers, but McRaith said the state won’t ask for a federal waiver to make the rule easier for those smaller companies.

“There is some disruption and definitely some discomfort among insurers, but consumers are definitely better protected than they were a year ago,” McRaith said in a phone call with reporters to mark the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. President Barack Obama signed the law March 23, 2010.

It requires insurers to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on providing medical care _ or give rebates to policyholders starting in 2012.

McRaith predicted up to 20 percent of Illinois policyholders who bought health plans sold on the individual market could get partial rebates on the premiums they pay. He predicted rebates for up to 25 percent of small group policyholders.

McRaith said some insurers selling to individuals will struggle to meet the requirement to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on health care. But Illinois won’t request a federal waiver to help those companies, even though the law allows states to seek exemptions if they can show the requirements would make their insurance markets less competitive.

“We did not request a waiver and do not anticipate requesting a waiver,” McRaith said.

Some early benefits of the health law were rolled out last year in Illinois. For example, more than 1,200 Illinois residents now receive health coverage through the state’s new insurance program for people who’d previously been denied coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions, McRaith said.

In Pennsylvania, a congressional field hearing dubbed “One Year of Broken Promises” was held by U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts , a Republican, with testimony from a lineup of Republicans and business representatives who oppose the law.

In Obama’s home state, where Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn has embraced the health law, the anniversary drew mostly events sponsored by supporters with a few counter protests.

The Campaign for Better Health Care said more than 400 Illinois churches, mosques and synagogues are participating in anniversary events to support the principles in the law. On Tuesday, a few dozen people rallied both for and against the law outside a congressman’s office in the Chicago suburb of Geneva.

On Friday, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin plans to visit Truman College in Chicago to talk about an early benefit of the law that allows young adults to stay on a parent’s health plan up to age 26.”