KASSEBAUM-KENNEDY: Clinton Vows Enforcement Crackdown
Administration officials announced yesterday that President Clinton plans to "punish" health insurance companies that attempt to get around a 1996 health insurance portability law by denying coverage to sick people or charging excessive premiums for such coverage. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Kassebaum-Kennedy, as it is commonly called in reference to its sponsors, was designed to ensure "that people losing group health insurance will have access to coverage in the individual insurance market, regardless of pre-existing medical problems." Since the law's enactment, however, federal officials have received numerous reports that insurance companies are attempting to "circumvent" the law, the New York Times reports. Some insurance firms have informed their individual agents "that they will reduce or eliminate the commissions they receive for selling insurance to small groups or to people with medical problems." Some insurers also have been charging exorbitant premiums for individual coverage (Pear, 7/7).
Bill To The Rescue
The Media General/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Clinton will issue a directive to the Office of Personnel Management, which negotiates health benefits for federal employees and their dependents, to use its purchasing power to "ensure that health plans come into compliance" with Kassebaum-Kennedy. The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) is the country's largest employer-based insurance program, covering nine million people through 350 plans (Mercer, 7/7). Under Clinton's order, all plans contracting through FEHBP "will have to certify that they are complying with the law in their private insurance business." The Health Care Financing Administration will be responsible for reporting any transgressions of the law to OMP. Moreover, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has offered to notify the federal government of violations found at the state level. "We are pleased to work with the administration in a partnership to make sure that everyone entitled to the protections of the Kassebaum-Kennedy law gets them," said Glenn Pomeroy, president of the association (Times, 7/7).
"Diving back into domestic matters after his China trip, President Clinton" in a Rose Garden speech yesterday "prodded Republicans to push education, health care and other measures through Congress this summer and hinted he would make an election-year issue of it if they do not," the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Fram, 7/7). "Congress has a choice to make in writing this chapter of our history," he said. He warned Congress that while he sought cooperation, "he would use executive powers to achieve what they block" (Baker, Washington Post, 7/7). CNN's Eileen O'Connor reported: "Aides say the president will wield his executive powers all this week to issue orders and move ahead without Congress. On Tuesday, it's health care, and another push for a patients' bill of rights" ("Inside Politics," 7/6).