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posted: 6/18/2012 10:02 AM

Editorial: Ensuring hope for health care coverage

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  • People visit the Supreme Court in Washington last March. Three top insurers say they'll honor some provisions of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, even if the Supreme Court overturns the health care law.

      People visit the Supreme Court in Washington last March. Three top insurers say they'll honor some provisions of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, even if the Supreme Court overturns the health care law.

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Any day now, we will hear how the U.S. Supreme Court will come down on the Affordable Care Act that attempted an overhaul of our health care and insurance systems.

The debate that preceded that bill changed our society. It can be argued that it gave rise to the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. Remember the shouting matches that erupted when members of Congress held town hall meetings? On one hand, it was wonderful to see such passion and activism ignited. On the other, the shouting and the occasional death threats directed at members of Congress were disturbing. So it is with some trepidation we await the Court's decision.

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It also, though, is with some hope.

Something significant occurred last week that deserves special attention. The nation's three biggest health insurers announced they will keep certain portions of the health care law no matter how the high court rules.

UnitedHealth Group, Inc., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. took steps we hope most other insurers follow. The largest provider, UnitedHealth, said it will keep children on their parents' insurance coverage until age 26. (Illinois law already covers dependent children under 26, but the current federal law before the Supreme Court also covers married children under 26.) UnitedHealth also will give children and young adults free preventive care and won't limit lifetime benefits. The company also won't rescind policies except for fraud and will keep a simplified appeals process, Bloomberg News reported. Aetna also will cover preventive care, let young adults stay on parents' plans and continue outside review of appeals. Humana, in essence, matched UnitedHealth's moves.

This is a tremendous step toward improvement in areas likely to find favor among most citizens. It's positive and significant the insurers committed to these policies publicly before any court ruling.

In a meeting with the editorial board recently, U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, a Kenilworth Republican who faces a fall election against Democrat Brad Schneider in the 10th District, also expressed some optimism for more avenues of consensus. It's not at all likely any tweaks to the law will come before the November election. And it is highly likely both parties will continue to use the health care debate as a campaign cudgel.

Still, Dold noted, most Americans believe they should not be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. That is an area left out, so far, by insurers. Will they and others see fit to include it?

We encourage that. We also know more must be done to encourage us to shop wisely for services and to end wildly varying prices. Why, for instance, should a knee MRI cost $750 in one place but $2,500 at others a few miles away?

In any event, the news from major insurers was good and, we hope, a sign of consensus and common sense that will continue no matter how the Supreme Court rules.

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