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Some insurers to keep health law’s provisions

Many benefits will remain if overhaul is rescinded

Some of the nation’s biggest health insurers will keep some popular parts of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul even if the law fails to survive Supreme Court scrutiny.

UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Aetna all said Monday that they will continue to cover preventive care such as immunizations and screenings without requiring patients to pay a set fee called a co-payment.

They also said they’d still cover adult children up to age 26 through their parents’ insurance plans. Additionally, they all pledged to continue to offer a simple process for patients who want to appeal when their insurance claims have been denied.

WellPoint, the nation’s second-largest insurer behind UnitedHealth, said it will announce its plans after the Supreme Court’s ruling. The company runs Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in several states.

The announcements come after insurers initially fought to block passage of the overhaul, which aims to provide coverage for millions of uninsured people. Challenges from states and other groups opposed to the law made their way to the Supreme Court. Justices are expected to rule later this month on whether to uphold the law that was passed in 2010, or strike down parts or all of it.

That major insurers are keeping some of the early provisions of the law underscores the popularity of those requirements. Patients have gotten used to the benefits, and insurers already have factored in the cost of the provisions into the premiums that customers have to pay for coverage.

Bob Laszewski, a consultant in the insurance industry, said insurers have added about 3 percent to a patient’s bill for the early provisions, depending on the type of coverage. As a result, he said if insurers didn’t keep the provisions, customers would expect a drop in the premiums they have to pay.

“It would probably be more trouble to roll these things back than go ahead with them,” said Laszewski, a former insurance executive.

UnitedHealth and Humana Inc., the nation’s No. 5 insurer, went further than No. 3 Aetna Inc. by saying they’d keep several early provisions of the law.

Both companies said they won’t impose lifetime dollar limits on how much an insurance policy pays out to cover claims. That helps people fighting cancer and expensive, chronic illnesses. The two insurers also said they would not pursue rescissions, or the cancellation of a person’s coverage retroactively – except in limited instances such as cases of fraud.

Both companies said in statements Monday that they decided to keep those provisions because they make sense. Humana said its customers should “have the peace of mind” knowing that the company will keep the provisions even if the law isn’t upheld.

“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,” UnitedHealth CEO Stephen J. Hemsley said.

The provisions that insurers decided to keep don’t apply to everyone. UnitedHealth and Humana both say the ones they’re keeping apply largely to customers who have individual policies or small-group health insurance through their employer.

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