WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the most popular provisions of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul — consumer-friendly summaries of what your insurance plan covers — suddenly seems to be at risk.
Consumer groups say it’s not Republican opposition they’re worried about, but a White House that doesn’t want to be seen, in an election year, as churning out costly new regulations.
At issue is a requirement in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) that is supposed to require carriers and health plans to provide “Summaries of Benefits and Coverage” (SBCs) — simple, standard summaries of coverage and costs to help consumers pick benefits that are right for them.
In theory, the final SBC rule could come out this spring, in time for open enrollment season this fall. It is undergoing final review by the White House. It would apply to all private and employer health plans, covering an estimated 180 million Americans.
But consumer advocates say they fear the administration may heed industry complaints that the regulation, as proposed last summer, is too costly, burdensome and intrusive.
“There is concern that the consumer protections we were hoping to see may not be in the final rule,” said Dr. LaShawn McIver, policy director at the American Diabetes Association, Alexandria, Va. “Ultimately, we are looking for a consumer-friendly product that gives people the information they need about what levels of coverage they can expect.”
Her organization and four others wrote Obama this week urging him not to water down the requirements.
“The information available to Americans today is wholly inadequate for consumers to choose and understand the insurance coverage options available to them,”the groups said in their letter.
Simple-to-understand health plan summaries are the most popular provision of the health care law, which otherwise continues to divide the public. That’s according to a poll last November by the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., which found the summaries garnered support from 84% of Americans, compared with 37% who viewed the overall law favorably. The SBC concept was popular even with Republicans who oppose implementation of PPACA.