A consumer group called Thursday for the
Obama administration and Congress to address 10 potential glitches in
the new healthcare overhaul law, saying loopholes could leave millions
of people with reduced health benefits or higher insurance costs.
In a letter to President Obama and lawmakers on Capitol
Watchdog of Santa Monica said the legislation — which requires most
Americans to carry health insurance by 2014 — fails to limit how much
insurers can charge for coverage. Obama had proposed greater federal
oversight of insurance rates, but the idea failed to survive
congressional negotiations over the final healthcare reform law he
signed last month.
No major revisions to the healthcare law
are expected any time soon because of the difficulties of passing
healthcare legislation in an election year. Since its passage, most
calls for change have come from opponents who think it went too far.
Oversight for health insurance rates is
left to states, many of which have limited authority to curb the costs.
That is the case in California for people who buy policies on their own
rather than receiving insurance through employers.
Consumer Watchdog wants Congress to enact
tougher guidelines so that insurers across the country have to seek
"prior approval" for rate hikes. A similar proposal is now under
consideration in the California Legislature. Under that plan, insurance
companies would have justify large rate hikes, following the same strict
regulation that has covered automobile and other types of property
insurance for the last two decades.
The consumer group identified what it said
were other problems with the healthcare reform law. It said, for
example, that further regulatory oversight is needed to bar insurers
from canceling coverage once policyholders become sick, a practice known
as rescission. And it said that additional congressional action is
needed to curb pharmaceutical costs by allowing Medicare, the federal
healthcare program for seniors, greater bargaining authority.