June 25, 2010
In Iowa's Interest: At Long Last, A New Patient's Bill of Rights
By Senator Tom Harkin
It has been just three months since President Obama signed the historic health reform bill, The Affordable Care Act, into law, and Iowans are already seeing some of the biggest benefits of the bill come to fruition. For example, earlier this month, seniors in Iowa and around the country who have already hit the “donut hole” and do not receive Medicare Extra Help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs, received tax-free, $250 rebate checks.
And just this week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a new set of rules creating a Patient’s Bill of Rights under the health reform bill. It is comprised of consumer-friendly provisions that protect hard-working families from some of the worst abuses by insurance companies. We have been talking about implementing similar patient protection legislation for over 15 years now, and under The Affordable Care Act, this has finally become a reality.
For health insurance plans starting on or after September 23 of this year, new protections under this Patient’s Bill of Rights will include:
No Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions for Children Under Age 19 – The bill makes sure that Iowans will no longer have to worry that their sick child will be denied health insurance because of a preexisting condition. Every year, children with preexisting conditions are denied coverage by insurance companies. This new legislation will ensure that insurers cannot deny coverage to children based on such conditions.
No Lifetime Limits on Coverage and Restricted Annual Dollar Limits on Coverage – The bill will also make sure that Iowans will no longer have to worry that loved ones will lose coverage because they hit a ‘lifetime limit’ for care. Under these new rules, insurers are no longer able to place lifetime limits on insurance policies. Additionally, the rules will phase out the use of annual dollar limits over the next three years until 2014 when The Affordable Care Act bans them for most plans.
No Arbitrary Rescissions of Insurance Coverage - Iowans do not need to worry that their own coverage can be taken away because of an innocent mistake or omission on an application. Insurers once had the ability to retroactively rid individuals of their coverage simply because they made a miniscule or unintentional mistake on application paperwork. The new health care bill protects Americans against this insurance company abuse.
It gives me great pleasure to see The Affordable Care Act in action and to recognize the potential that this historic legislation truly has. The policies laid out in the Patient’s Bill of Rights are exactly what we have been fighting for all these years – to give all Iowans the quality health care they deserve.
A complete list of protections laid out in the Patient’s Bill of Rights can be found at http://www.healthreform.gov/newsroom/new_patients_bill_of_rights.html. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to contact my office at 202-224-3254 or visit harkin.senate.gov.