Last Friday, the House of Representatives voted 261-157 to allow health insurers to continue to sell policies that do not meet the standards established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for consumer protections and comprehensive benefits. While the House has voted numerous times to repeal all or part of the ACA, this vote received more bipartisan support than previous votes. The ACA’s consumer protections included numerous provisions to prevent discrimination against people with health conditions and disabilities and to ensure fair health insurance premiums for people with health conditions. The law required health plans to provide a minimal level of benefits. The intent of these reforms was to make insurance sold in the individual and small group market more like plans offered by employers. It is not likely that the Senate will take up the legislation at this time, but several Senators have introduced similar bills. The Administration has threatened a veto.
Before the vote, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would allow states and insurance companies to renew plans that did not meet the new consumer protections and essential health benefit provisions for a transition period of one year. Insurers would not be allowed, as they would in the House plan, to sell new polices that do not meet the standards. The Administration announced the policy in a letter to state insurance commissions sent on Thursday, November 14th. States and insurance companies will decide if they will use this flexibility to continue to sell plans that do not meet the ACA minimal consumer protection and essential health benefit standards.