John McDonough — who played a pivotal role in passing and implementing Massachusetts’ 2006 health care reform law — makes this important point about Mitt Romney’s much maligned “I want Americans to fire their health insurers” comment: one of the few places where individuals and families really do have a choice of coverage and can “fire” their service provider and enroll in a new insurance plan without fear of being denied because of a pre-existing condition is in the governor’s home state. Until the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014, it is actually “the insurers that have the right to fire YOU — except if you live in Massachusetts or in the handful of other states which have already implemented guaranteed issue and the elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions,” McDonough notes.
That is beginning to change, however. As of the fall of 2010, the new law “has already eliminated ways that insurance companies can fire you today”:
Two of numerous examples. First, by eliminating the right of insurers to impose lifetime or annual benefit limits, insurance companies have lost the right to “fire” enrollees who cost them too much money. Second, by prohibiting the practice of “rescissions” (cancelling insurance coverage after an enrollee files a claim by finding a small inaccuracy in an individual’s coverage application), insurers have lost the ability to “fire” enrollees for the offense of filing a claim. Both of these are operative today, and Mitt proposes repealing both of these reforms.
Romney, of course, would eliminate all those protections and turn the system back to a time where insurers hold all the hiring/firing power. For more on the context of Romney’s comments and why his “fire” comments would increase health care costs for many Americans, click here and here.