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New ACA Consumer Protections Implemented

50b6407f9ffdb.preview-620The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued a final rule that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act, and makes the health insurance market work better for individuals, families, and small businesses.Under these reforms, all individuals and employers have the right to purchase health insurance coverage regardless of health status.  In addition, insurers are prevented from charging discriminatory rates to individuals and small employers based on factors such as health status or gender, and young adults have additional affordable coverage options under catastrophic plans.

Today’s final rule implements five key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are applicable to non-grandfathered health plans:

  • Guaranteed Availability: Nearly all health insurance companies offering coverage to individuals and employers will be required to sell health insurance policies to all consumers. No one can be denied health insurance because they have or had an illness.
  • Fair Health Insurance Premiums: Health insurance companies offering coverage to individuals and small employers will only be allowed to vary premiums based on age, tobacco use, family size, and geography.  Basing premiums on other factors will be illegal.  The factors that are no longer permitted in 2014 include health status, past insurance claims, gender, occupation, how long an individual has held a policy, or size of the small employer.
  • Guaranteed Renewability: Health insurance companies will no longer refuse to renew coverage because an individual or an employee has become sick.  You may renew your coverage at your option.
  • Single Risk Pool: Health insurance companies will no longer be able to charge higher premiums to higher cost enrollees by moving them into separate risk pools.  Insurers are required to maintain a single state-wide risk pool for the individual market and single state-wide risk pool for the small group market.
  • Catastrophic Plans: Young adults and people for whom coverage would otherwise be unaffordable will have access to a catastrophic plan in the individual market.  Catastrophic plans generally will have lower premiums, protect against high out-of-pocket costs, and cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing.