Biggest Health Insurer Will Keep Parts of 'Obamacare,' Regardless of Court Ruling

National Journal

UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest health care provider, will keep major and popular parts of President Obama’s health care initiative, regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules.

The company announced Monday that it plans to continue to provide customers with preventive health services without co-pays or out-of-pocket charges. The company will also allow parents to keep children on their health plans until age 26.

UnitedHealthcare will also observe the law’s prohibition against lifetime limits on insurance payouts and canceling coverage after a patient gets sick, unless that patient intentionally lied on the insurance application.

The announcement affects roughly 9 million consumers in the U.S. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing several major challenges to the law, and is expected to issue rulings this month that could dispatch all or part of the law.

“The protections we are voluntarily extending are good for people’s health, promote broader access to quality care and contribute to helping control rising health care costs,” Stephen J. Hemsley, president and chief executive of UnitedHealth Group, said in a statement. “These provisions are compatible with our mission and continue our operating practices.”

Health and Human Services' chief health information technology officer, Farzad Mostashari, said it was part of a larger trend of the health reform law delivering permanent improvements to the health care industry.

"It goes to show how there are some changes afoot that are in the direction that we need to move," Mostashari told National Journal in an interview. "I'm greatly encouraged by what a lot of the commercial plans are doing."

The health insurance industry lobby also welcomed United's announcement.

"This is an example of health plans stepping up to give consumers peace of mind about their health care coverage," Americans Health Inusrance Plans Spokesman Robert Zirkelbach said in an e-mail.

Meghan McCarthy contributed.

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