By Julian Pecquet - 03/05/12 05:44 PM EST
National Consumer Protection Week is an excellent time for consumers to learn more about their new health insurance rights and the resources offered by the Affordable Care Act.
Thanks to the law, many Americans have new options for health insurance coverage and are protected from some of the worst insurance company practices. Now, children can no longer be excluded from coverage because of a pre-existing health problem, most young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, and adults with pre-existing conditions can seek coverage from the new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. And in 2014, new Affordable Insurance Exchanges will provide all Americans with access to affordable, high-quality coverage.
The Affordable Care Act makes sure that your insurance works for you when you need it most: when you’re sick or injured. Insurance companies can no longer put a lifetime dollar cap on essential health benefits or revoke your coverage when you’re sick just because you made an honest mistake on your insurance application. If your insurer denies your claim for benefits, there is a new right to appeal, and if a claim is denied again, the right to an outside, independent review.
The law also ensures that you get value for your dollars. Now, insurance companies generally must spend 80 or 85 percent or more of your premium on health benefits and quality improvements, instead of for non-health expenses, such as overhead and advertising. Starting this year, insurance companies that don’t meet the 80 or 85 percent standard will provide rebates to consumers. Lastly, insurers that propose to hike premiums by 10 percent or more may now be required to publicly justify these increases.
We’re working hard to fully implement all of the consumer protections and coverage options in the Affordable Care Act. I encourage you to visit our consumer website, www.HealthCare.gov, to learn more about your protections, investigate local health insurance options on the website’s Plan Finder, and explore a wealth of other consumer tools and resources.