High court rejection won't affect some key health benefits, N.H.insurers say



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Even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the federal health law, at least two of New Hampshire's large insurers will retain some of the more popular provisions that were part of the sweeping reform bill, although a few of them are already required under New Hampshire state law.The Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision by the end of the month on whether the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. The court's ruling will decide whether to uphold the law in its entirety, strike down parts of it, such as the individual mandate, or overturn the law altogether.But ahead of the ruling, some health insurance providers have already said that they will retain some provisions of the law, regardless of whether it is thrown out in part or whole by month's end. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, which is based in Wellesley, Mass., said that even if the law is invalidated, it would continue to offer three of the law's provisions to all its participants in its tri-state coverage area, which includes New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine.For one, it will extend the provision that allows dependents to stay on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old. The provision has proven to be one of the law's most popular, as higher unemployment rates among young people have lessened their access to jobs with health benefits, but is already a requirement under New Hampshire state law.Harvard Pilgrim, however, will go beyond state law and will continue to offer certain preventive care services -- including routine vaccinations, some cancer screenings, diabetes tests and others -- without co-payments. It will also not impose annual and lifetime limits pertaining to essential health benefits.In a statement, Harvard Pilgrim CEO Eric Schultz said that "several" of the Affordable Care Act's provisions "have benefited the health of our members, employer customers and communities and will help to control costs over the long term."MVP Health Care, which is based in Schenectady, N.Y., and has members in New York, New Hampshire and Vermont, said that it would continue to offer its New Hampshire policyholders the provisions from the Affordable Care Act that are consistent with existing state law.MVP CEO David Oliker said in a statement that if some parts of the law are upheld and others invalidated, "there will be fewer changes in New Hampshire than in many parts of the country, as New Hampshire already has many of the reforms enacted by the ACA, including community rating and an external review process."If the entire law is invalidated, he said, MVP will continue to offer provisions, such as guaranteed issue regardless of health or risk status for the small group market, coverage of dependents to age 26 and allowing women to select an OB/GYN as her primary care provider or parents to select a pediatrician as their child's primary care provider - all of which are required under state law and are also included in the federal reform bill."With respect to all other consumer protections, MVP will work with state regulators to determine exactly what benefit designs MVP can offer in view of the change in federal law," said Oliker.A spokesperson for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire said it would wait until the court made its ruling to comment, and a request for comment from a spokesperson for Cigna in New Hampshire was not returned before deadline. -- KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW Edit ModuleShow Tags