Not to be outdone, the UnitedHealthcare announcement was quickly followed by me-too proclamations from Aetna and Humana. Now the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which represents 38 Blue insurers across the country, has added its support to continuing those five provisions.
These are admirable positions. But before we get too carried away with the accolades, let's take a look at what the health insurers have really done. They've simply identified coverage options that are popular with consumers and politicians and agreed to continue offering them.
Coverage of dependents up to age 26, for instance, has consistently ranked high in consumer surveys and House Republicans have specifically mentioned that provision as important to their repeal-and-replace approach to healthcare reform.
The five provisions promised to be extended are also relatively inexpensive for insurers, notes Avram Goldstein, communications and research director for the advocacy group Health Care for America Now.
The announcements by UHC, Humana, Aetna, and others leave open to question what will happen to pre-condition underwriting based only on age, premium rating area, family composition, and tobacco use. What about guaranteed issue? And where do they stand on medical loss ratio requirements? Will insurers continue to limit administrative costs to 15% to 20% of premium income?