By Kate KoehlerAssociated PressWASHINGTON — A new federal bill to prevent the use of private insurance to pay for emergency medical care could cost the federal government as much as $100 billion a year.
The bill from Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) was introduced Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee and will be introduced in the Senate on Wednesday.
The House bill, introduced by Moran, would require insurers to offer “affordable and effective” coverage to their customers regardless of pre-existing conditions.
It also would prevent insurers from charging patients more than the current Medicare payment rate.
“The bill will make it illegal for health insurers to sell insurance that does not meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum standards for health coverage, such as coverage of essential health benefits, maternity and newborn care, preventive care, and mental health,” Moran said in a statement.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) was introduced in February by Sen. Ron Wyden (D) and included a similar provision.
The Brady-Wyden legislation was introduced because of concerns that the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) will not meet its primary goals of expanding access to health coverage and lowering health care costs, said Ryan Lenz, director of health care policy at the advocacy group Health Policy and Law Institute.
As an example, the Brady- Wyden bill states that, if an employer offers a health plan with a “gold” plan that includes all of its employees, it must offer a minimum premium for each of its workers, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Insurers are required to offer plans with the same minimums as the minimums they have to provide for other employees and employees of smaller employers.
Currently, plans are only required to cover essential health services, maternity care, prescription drugs and hospitalization for employees, and prescription drugs, according a Kaiser Family Foundation study in February.
Under the current system, the ACA only covers coverage of basic needs for the majority of people, including the elderly, the disabled, and those with pre-cancerous or terminal illnesses.
Insurers that choose to opt out of covering essential health care will be able to continue to do so without having to pay the federal penalty, Lenz said.
If the legislation passes, it would mean that insurers could avoid having to spend billions of dollars on care to cover a small percentage of the population.
Other lawmakers are also calling for similar provisions.
The White House released a report earlier this month calling for a national standard for insurers to cover the minimum essential health coverage requirements, including maternity care and prescription drug coverage.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.) said in February that she was working with Moran on the bill, which she called “the most progressive healthcare bill to ever pass the House.”
The bill also calls for an “agency review of state and federal laws” that are in place to address insurance coverage of mental health care, a common topic of debate in Washington.
The administration’s report did not provide a timeline for the review.