Sebelius Says HHS Will Help U.S. Residents Sift Through Health Reform
On Tuesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pledged that her agency would serve as "an umpire to make sure insurance companies treat Americans fairly" and "a nationwide health insurance reform help desk" to ensure that U.S. residents understand the components of the newly passed health reform law, Reuters reports.
In an appearance at the National Press Club, Sebelius said that national and state regulators would closely monitor private insurers to ensure compliance with new reform regulations. She added, "The trade-off of having additional customers for the private market means that the new rules will be followed and will be vigorously enforced" (Heavey, Reuters, 4/6).
Sebelius also said that implementation of reform will be "as clear and transparent as possible," compared with the current insurance system, which she described as overwhelming and confusing (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 4/6).
To help U.S. residents better understand reform, HHS will "need to communicate clearly with the American people," she said, adding, "If you arenât sure what to believe, we'll have the facts."
Sebelius added that "ultimately, we recognize that actions speak louder than words. No matter how good a job we do educating Americans about the benefits for them in the bill, it won't be much unless we also implement those policies responsibly and effectively" (Alberta, Politico, 4/6).
Sebelius Criticizes State AGs for Anti-Reform Lawsuit
Sebelius also spent a portion of her speech criticizing state attorneys general who have launched legal challenges against reform, saying that the vast majority of the attorneys general are seeking higher office and have political motivations, not policy concerns (CQ HealthBeat, 4/6).
Thirteen state attorneys general on March 23 launched a lawsuit -- since joined by several other stateÂ attorneys generalÂ -- against the imposition of an individual mandate requiring U.S. residents to purchase insurance coverage or pay a fine or tax.
The suit charges that the "Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage." The suit also claims that the law violates the Constitution's 10th Amendment (California Healthline, 3/31).
Sebelius said the administration is "confident that the law is on solid, constitutional ground" (Reuters, 4/6).
Sebelius Warns Against Fake Insurance Policies
Also on Tuesday, Sebelius warned consumers against potential "scam artists," who are fraudulently selling insurance policies in an attempt to exploit the new health reform law, the New York Times' "Prescriptions" reports (Calmes, "Prescriptions," New York Times, 4/6).
According to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle, the number of such scams has increased since President Obama signed the overhaul into law. Some alleged scam artists have established toll-free lines and begun selling fake insurance policies door to door.
Sebelius has written to state officials, urging them to investigate and prosecute fraud cases (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/6). According to the Sebelius, HHS also has begun warning seniors about potential insurance scams ("Prescriptions," New York Times, 4/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.