Thursday, April 1, 2010

WA insurance commissioner: Work on health care reform is already underway

Work to launch federal health care reforms is already underway, Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Thursday.

“This is a time of exhilarating change, and we’re already in the thick of it,” Kreidler told reporters in Seattle. “Every single health insurance plan in Washington state – and there are thousands of them – will change this year.”

Here are six key changes to policies that will take effect by the end of 2010:

No more out-of-pocket costs (like co-pays) for preventive care.

No more lifetime caps on benefits. (Many policies now include $1 million or $2 million limits.)

Children can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Parents will be able to keep adult dependent children on their health plans until age 26.

For seniors, the coverage gap in Medicare’s prescription drug plan (the very unpopular “donut hole”) will gradually close, starting with a $250 rebate this year.

Individuals with pre-existing conditions who have been uninsured for several months can get financial assistance for coverage through Washington state's Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP).

“These changes all apply regardless of whether you buy coverage on your own or through your employer,” said Kreidler.

The public is clearly watching this issue closely. Within hours of the legislation passing Congress, the Insurance Commissioner’s Office began receiving emails and phone calls from people wondering how health care reform will affect them. The agency is posting detailed information on its website.

“We have our work cut out for us,” said Kreidler, whose staff must review and approve an estimated 2,000 new health insurance policies over the next few months. “But given what’s at stake, I couldn’t be more thrilled.”