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Some Rules That Make Sense

It’s Friday, we’ve been a bit preachy here lately, and the plan was to lighten up.  But then one short  Associated Press article caught our attention, and, frankly, it’s not the best news we’ve read lately.

Nothing awful, mind you, nothing major or catastrophic – just worrying.

It’s part of the traditional election year follies, maybe.  In his State of the Union address the other evening, President Obama indicated that his administration is sensitive to the criticism of government overreach through too much regulation.  There’s a lot of talk that government regulations make it hard for businesses to compete and flourish and – eventually, maybe, sort of – to add jobs and boost the economy.  It’s a worthwhile discussion.  We just don’t want one particular aspect of President Obama’s health care overhaul to fall by the wayside because of it.

Last summer, under the Affordable Care Act, it was reported that new rules had been proposed that would make it far easier for consumers to read and understand their health insurance policies.  The new, improved forms were scheduled to be available in 2012.  Granted, this doesn’t sound too exciting or groundbreaking, but hold on.  The rules were designed to get rid of the often bizarre,  jargon-riddled insurance speak common to health plans so that we consumers could actually understand what’s covered, what’s not, and could then access that care.  Imagine that!  But wait – there’s more.

Health insurance buyers were not only to receive clearly written and logically designed summaries of benefits and coverage with their policies, there was also to be a uniform glossary of terms commonly used in health insurance to accompany those summaries.  But that’s not all!  There were to be coverage examples, too (kind of like the nutrition facts on food packages), to help us understand and compare policies from  different carriers.  The whole system was designed to make it simpler for us to buy and use health insurance coverage.

Consumer advocates have it on good authority, however, that this popular provision might be in jeopardy.  The White House does not want to be seen as rolling out burdensome regulation after regulation in this election year.  “There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly,” the president said in his State of the Union message.  “I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense.”

Our little user-friendly rule package is due to take effect in time for the open enrollment season this fall and is right now under White House review.  It applies to all private and employer health plans, plans that cover 180 million Americans.  Insurance industry insiders insist the whole thing is too expensive, intrusive and burdensome and want it dropped.

Officials in the Obama administration said they were unable to comment on the specifics of regulations presently under review even as they tried to assure consumer groups that making the health care system more transparent remains a priority.  The American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, AARP and Consumers Union have all written to President Obama,  urging him not to weaken or soften the requirements.

We can only sit back and wait at this point.  The timing of the new requirement is unfortunate.  The simple-to-understand health plan summaries are, according to a non-partisan poll conducted last November, the most popular provision of the health care law.  Some 84 percent of Americans support the new summaries even as only 37 percent of us viewed the overall law a good thing.

It sort of comes down to this: rules that don’t make sense to whom?  While we are all in support of government efficiency, economic growth and sensible budgeting, these new rules should stay.  All things  considered, it would be insensitive (to say the least) to try to make sense by eliminating rules that are all about making sense – right?

Have a great weekend!

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