NAIC: Health Reform Provisions Unclear to Most Americans

John Commins, September 15, 2010

Consumers remain confused and unsure of the timing for implementation of many provisions in the sweeping healthcare reform law that was passed by Congress last spring, according to a telephone survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

When asked to choose from four dates for which the first healthcare reform provisions officially take effect, only 14% correctly identified Sept. 23, 2010.

"Our survey findings are a clear indicator that most Americans are not aware of how soon some of the early healthcare changes may impact them," said NAIC President and West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jane L. Cline. "It's essential for consumers to understand what to expect and when to consult their state insurance departments for more information."

When asked about specific reform provisions that take effect Sept. 23, 72% of respondents knew that children with pre-existing conditions may not be excluded from coverage and 70% understood that children up to age 26 may be covered under their parents' insurance.

However, half of the respondents incorrectly believed that employers with fewer than 50 employees will have to offer coverage to employees, and 47% incorrectly thought that all health insurance plans must cover approved preventive care and checkups without co-payment.

In reality, those qualifying for Medicare will receive new preventive care benefits that will include annual visits free of copayments, but this is not mandated for all health insurance plans.

"The results show that while most consumers are well attuned to provisions specifically affecting their children's healthcare, they do not grasp the overall reform framework," said Cline. "It's promising to see this, but we feel it necessary for consumers to fully understand the changes and get informed about what to expect."

NAIC conducted the Insurance IQ Omnibus national telephone survey of 1,000 adults on Aug. 12-15. NAIC said consumers with questions about the reforms should contact their state insurance department.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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