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Supreme Court Ruling Won’t Change UnitedHealth Plans

The UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, has announced that it planned to continue offering some of the popular consumer protections required by the federal healthcare law, even if the law is declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court later this month
June 12, 2012

The UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, has announced that it planned to continue offering some of the popular consumer protections required by the federal healthcare law, even if the law is declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court later this month.

The company, whose annual revenues top $100 billion, says it will continue to cover adult children up to age 26 on their parents’ policies, offer coverage without lifetime limits and provide preventative care services without co-payments.

UnitedHealth declined to say what it planned to do regarding some of the more significant changes now required by the law in 2014, when insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing condition or ask those in poor health to pay more. The company said it could work with other insurers to offer coverage to children with pre-existing medical conditions, which is currently required under the federal healthcare law. But UnitedHealth emphasized it could not take that step alone, and insurers have long argued that they are able to offer this kind of coverage only if other insurers shared in the cost. It was not immediately clear whether other insurers would follow UnitedHealth’s move, but the rest of the industry is likely to feel some pressure to do so.

UnitedHealth said the cost of the provisions it was voluntarily continuing was not likely to affect the premiums its customers pay or its financial results. Policy experts had speculated that insurers were likely to keep them in place, regardless of whether the law survived the legal challenge now before the Supreme Court.

What It Means to Agents: This indicates that customer desires will govern what companies will do, at least to a certain extent, if the Supreme Court rules all or part of the healthcare law unconstitutional. It is interesting to note UnitedHealth saying that continuing some of the new benefits mandated by the healthcare law won’t affect premiums or the company’s financial picture. This challenges the notion that such benefits impose significant increased costs.

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