by Stephanie Drahan and Thao Nguyen, National Women’s Law Center
September 22, 2010: You get sick. You go to the doctor. You get diagnosed. Your insurance company drops your coverage when you need it the most. You now find yourself fighting your illness and the insurance company.
September 23, 2010: You get sick. You go to the doctor. You get diagnosed. You worry about fighting your illness and your insurance company pays for your care, just like it should.
Let me be clear – a miracle has not happened. What has happened is simply that the law now finally works for you.
For years, we’ve worked to pass a health care law that would help protect women and their families from harmful insurance company practices. Today, on the six month anniversary of the new health care law, one of several important provisions goes into effect that will help save many families from anguish and heart break.
One of the most heinous health insurance practices on the books (and unfortunately there are many to choose from) is rescissions or dropping people’s coverage when they are sick. This method was used by insurance companies in the individual market to cut costs.
Earlier this year, the insurance giant Wellpoint received negative press when it was discovered they used a complex algorithm to identify women battling breast cancer and then systematically dropped their coverage (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63M5D420100423). Fortunately, Wellpoint caved under pressure from health care advocates (http://www.nwlc.org/our-blog/score-one-women-over-wellpoint) and the US government (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63M2YM20100426) and became early adopters of the provision of the new health care law preventing rescissions.
But as of today, we no longer need to worry about whether our insurance companies continue to issue rescissions. We no longer need to take on our insurance companies and demand coverage when we are diagnosed with an illness. Instead, the new health care law protects us as consumers of health insurance.
As of today (http://www.nwlc.org/resource/health-reform-implementation-timeline-key-provisions-womens-health0, insurance companies can only drop people in exceptionally rare circumstances: fraud or intentional misrepresentation. Needing health care is no longer a reason to lose your coverage. And this is just one of the many important provisions of the new health care law that goes into effect today. Today will be noted in history as the day when consumers were able to regain control of their health, thanks in large part to the new health care law.
We have a saying here at the National Women’s Law Center: we work to put the law on the side of women and their families. And that can’t be more true than today; it is one of those rare days where you can really see it in practice, and isn’t it beautiful?