Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oops! There's a gap in new health care law's protection of children

Shortly after the health care bill was signed into law on Tuesday, it was discovered that the new legislation did not, in fact, protect children from being denied coverage for a pre-existing condition until 2014:
Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.
Representative John Larson (D-CT) tried to minimize the problem:

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said such concerns will be addressed, either through administrative actions or further action by Congress.

“I think with the ability to pass regulations or even to further amend legislation -- that’s something that can be easily handled through regs, or through the ability of us to amend another bill,” Larson told us.

“The president said this is the foundation -- this is the start. There’s going to be a lot more action and correction,” Larson said. “I think it was wise to not have the full effect of this bill take effect until 2014. Because when you’re creating an exchange like this, you want to make sure that you get it right and you want to make sure you get it right on behalf of the American people. But with regard to preexisting conditions, I would dare say that even our colleagues on the other side -- especially when it comes to children, etc. -- will join us in this, and in many respects I think they need to join us in this. They’re out talking about repeal -- they don’t want to be talking about repeal of children’s benefits.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that the administration does not believe that children with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage under the new law, though he said that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would issue regulations next month making that clear.
If the bill can be amended by administrative agency issued regulations and executive orders, why do we need the congress?  This goof-up is a clear indication to me that the President, his advisors and speech writers haven't read the bill.

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