Health-care rules may force some to change coverage, leaked document suggests

By Associated Press
Saturday, June 12, 2010; A05

President Obama said repeatedly during the health-care debate that people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it. But an early draft of an administration regulation estimates that many employers will be forced to change their health plans under the new law.

In just three years, a majority of workers -- 51 percent -- will be in plans subject to new federal requirements, according to midrange projections in the draft.

Plans that predate the health-care law are exempt from many, but not all, of its consumer protections. Types of changes could include offering preventive care without co-payments and instituting an appeals process for disputed claims that follows new federal guidelines. The law already requires all health plans to extend coverage to young-adult children until they turn 26.

"What we are getting here is a clear indication that most plans will have to change," said James Gelfand, health policy director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "From an employer's point of view, that's a bad thing. These changes, whether or not they're good for consumers, are most certainly accompanied by a cost."

The Obama administration said the draft regulation is an early version undergoing revision, but the leaked document was drawing wide interest Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it showed that Obama's assurance that Americans would be able to keep existing plans was "a myth."

"Since its passage, Republican arguments against the bill have been repeatedly vindicated, even as the administration's many promises about the bill have been called into question again and again," McConnell said.

An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the rules are still being written, said the final version will uphold Obama's promise, accommodating employers' desire for flexibility while protecting consumers from runaway costs.

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