See that label above? That’s what a health insurance policy looks like — or is supposed to look like. Under the health reform law, insurance companies are required to summarize each benefit plan in a four-page, easy-to-read document (you can see the full thing here). The Obama administration rolled out a draft format for the summaries this past summer, and they were supposed to roll out this coming March, on the health reform law’s two-year anniversary.
Except, they won’t: In the fall, the Department Labor announced that it would no longer adhere to that March 2012 deadline, and instead would give insurance plans “sufficient time to comply.” Insurance companies have pushed for the delayed implementation. As AHIP, which represents the insurance industry, wrote in its comments, “The proposed rule requires almost a complete redesign of how information is provided to consumers and it will be difficult and costly to implement on this timeline.”
AHIP proposes a regulation that kicks in 18 months after it’s finalized. If the final regulation were to come out tomorrow, that would mean an implementation date in the summer of 2013.
Consumer groups, meanwhile, are getting nervous about when this label will actually come online — and what the final product will look like. Four major health-care groups sent a letter to the White House this week, urging the administration to stick with the template created this summer — and to get it out the door soon.
Consumer advocates worry that the White House may ditch the part of the label shown above, which games how much a subscriber would pay for a particular suite of medical services, such as delivering a baby or seeking breast cancer treatment. “We are very concerned that compared to the proposed rule that was released in August, the final rule we are expecting shortly will be weakened,” the Consumer Union’s Lynn Quincy told the Associated Press recently. “That would be very bad for consumers.”
A lot of this won’t get resolved until we see a final regulation and, right now, there’s no firm release date for that. The Department of Labor has not sent the regulation up to the Office of Budget and Management — one of the last steps in regulatory review — which suggests that we’re still a decent way off from seeing the final document, and from getting a sense of where the administration will land.