ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Federal health care reform legislation took effect Thursday, including provisions that add consumer protections -- but the Alaska Division of Insurance says it will probably be a while until the benefits are implemented.
The division says that while the law is now in effect, health-insurance policy holders will see changes when their plans renew. Group insurance plans renew every year -- so if Oct. 1 is your renewal date, that's when the law’s provisions will affect your plan.
Under the provisions, health insurance companies will provide free preventive care, no discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions is allowed, and children can remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
Other elements of the law lift a maximum cap on lifetime benefits and prevent insurers from turning anyone away when they get sick.
The division says insurance companies have been filing the contracts they'll issue to customers with the state for approval. The state says it's seeing insurers increase premiums to cover the additional benefits’ costs.
“It will be rolled out consistent with the law -- the implementation date was to be the plan year or the policy year, so that will depend on when the employer's renewal date comes up and on the individual side, what the insurer’s contract said was the policy year,” said the division’s Katie Campbell.
A major insurance company, Premera Blue Cross, says many of its group customers, or employers, will have their policies changed Oct. 1.
Another aspect of the new law is a grandfathering provision, allowing those who had coverage in place on March 23 to choose to keep that policy.
“So a number of our customers have chosen to do that, and what it allows them to do is keep their plans in place, and they don't have to implement all of the health care provisions which do add a little bit of cost right now,” said Premera Blue Cross spokesperson Eric Earling.
If you have any questions about the new provisions, it’s recommended that you contact your health care provider.
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