Insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc. sees some parts of the health care overhaul as sound medicine and plans to keep them even if the law fails to survive an upcoming Supreme Court ruling.
The nation's largest health insurer said Monday it will still cover preventive care like immunizations without charging a co-payment. It will also continue other popular, initial provisions of the law.
The overhaul, which aims to provide coverage for millions of uninsured people, started unfolding in 2010 after health insurers fought bitterly to block its passage. Challenges to the law from states and other groups opposed to it wound their way through the court system to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments on the law's constitutionality in March.
The court is expected to issue a ruling later this month that could strike down the entire law or parts of it, or uphold it.
Despite deep divisions about President Barack Obama's law, UnitedHealth's announcement underscores the staying power of some of its reforms.
UnitedHealth will continue to offer dependent coverage to adult children up to age 26 who seek coverage through parental plans, and it won't impose lifetime dollar limits on how much an insurance policy pays out to cover claims. That can help people fighting cancer or an expensive, chronic illness.
The insurer also pledged not to cancel individual coverage retroactively, except in limited instances like cases of fraud.
Stephen J. Hemsley, chief executive of the Minnetonka, Minn., insurer, said in a statement that it will extend some of the overhaul's initial provisions because they are good for people's health, they promote better access to quality care and they help control rising health care costs.
None of these provisions will be free for consumers. Insurers have already factored them into the premium, or the cost of the insurance coverage. They probably add about 3 percent to that bill, depending on the type of coverage, said Bob Laszewski, a consultant and former insurance executive. If insurers cut these benefits, customers probably will expect a corresponding premium drop, he noted. "It would probably be more trouble to roll these things back than go ahead with them," Laszewski said.
"It just makes common sense to leave these things in there and not take these benefits away since they're already priced in," he said.Laszewski expects other insurers and large employers who provide coverage to take the same approach.