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NAIC: Few Residents Aware That Additional Health Care Reform Provisions Take Effect This Month

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Only 14 percent can correctly identify official the implementation date for the law's earliest provisions.

(Washington, DC) — Earlier this year, Congress passed sweeping reforms designed to revamp the health care system and increase access to care for many Americans. Yet, according to a new survey by the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), many consumers are confused about the provisions, and are unsure of timing for actual implementation.

When asked to choose from four dates for which the first health care reform provisions officially take effect, only 14 percent correctly identified September 23, 2010.

“Our survey findings are a clear indicator that most Americans are not aware of how soon some of the early health care changes may impact them,” said DISB Commissioner Gennet Purcell, Esq. “It’s essential for consumers to understand what to expect and when to consult DISB, their state insurance department for more information.”

When asked about specific reform provisions that take effect, September 23, 2010, most respondents correctly identified provisions concerning children. Specifically, 72 percent knew that children with pre-existing conditions may not be excluded from coverage and 70 percent understood that individuals up to age 26 may be covered under their parents’ insurance. In the District of Columbia, this provision has been in place since May 2010, by Council legislation.

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

In reality, employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required by the new law to provide health insurance to staff, and all co-payments for preventive care and checkups are not eliminated. However, those qualifying for Medicare will receive new preventive care benefits that will include annual visits free of co-payments, 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 health care, they do not grasp the overall reform framework,” said Commissioner Purcell. “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.”

To keep up with the complex health reform process that includes multiple implementation phases in the coming years, contact DISB with questions. Visit the agency’s Health Reform link on its website at www.disb.dc.gov. Or call (202) 727-8000. Later this year, the District of Columbia government will launch a comprehensive health reform website to answer residents’ questions, and to offer specific information based on various life situations.

In addition, the NAIC website has a special section dedicated to health care reform questions and resources. Visit http://www.naic.org/index_health_reform_section.htm to learn more.

About the Survey
The DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking and NAIC conducted the Insurance IQ Omnibus survey by phone Aug. 12 to 15, 2010, to highlight consumer knowledge of health care reform provisions. The participant sample included a nationally representative sample of 1,000 American adults age 18 and older.

About the NAIC
Formed in 1871, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is a voluntary organization of the chief insurance regulatory officials of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The NAIC has three offices: Executive Office, Washington, D.C.; Central Office, Kansas City, Mo.; and Securities Valuation Office, New York City. The NAIC serves the needs of consumers and the industry, with an overriding objective of supporting state insurance regulators as they protect consumers and maintain the financial stability of the insurance marketplace. For more information, visit http://www.naic.org/.