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Q&A: Health care reform allows no discrimination for pre-existing conditions

Protection in health care reform

The House and Senate health care reform bills both prohibit denial of health insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions. What does this mean in more detail? Would insurers be allowed to charge higher premiums to persons with pre-existing conditions? Could insurers force persons with pre-existing conditions into different tiers of coverage or deny coverage of specific procedures, drugs or other remedies?

The short answer is no. Insurers would not be able to charge higher premiums because of pre-existing medical problems, and would not be able to push people into skimpier coverage because of health issues. Under the Democratic bills, insurers would be able to charge higher premiums for only three reasons: age, family size and location, a reflection of the fact that medical costs vary dramatically across the country.

Insurers would have discretion on how to design their plans and their drug menus, which usually group medications into different classes, with higher copayments for certain drugs. But they would have to treat everybody in the plan the same way. They could not charge higher copayments to people because of their medical history.

The insurance protections would take effect in 2014. Before that, as a transition, Obama and the Democrats would boost funding for state high-risk pools to provide coverage for people turned down for insurance because of medical problems.

Bending the rules at Olympics

I always wonder about this. I saw a photo of U.S. Olympic athletes with American flags draped over their shoulders. Isn't such behavior a violation of U.S. law (Title 4, Chapter 1)?

The U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8(j) clearly states that "No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform." However, national pride runs high at the Olympics, and well it should, said Maj. John Alderman, public affairs officer for the Georgia National Guard.

"Although it is improper and to be avoided, perhaps it is not surprising that at these events, the athletes sometimes break the rules," he said. "It is fitting and good that we should all continue to be diligent in the adherence to the rightful show of respect for the flag of the United States."

Born in U.S., breeding in China

Have any pandas born in the United States successfully bred in China?

Yes. According to the San Diego Zoo, the first baby panda born at the California zoo, Hua Mei, has produced several offspring in China.

Two American-born pandas, 3-year-old Mei Lan from Zoo Atlanta and Tai Shan, a 4-year-old at the National Zoo in Washington, arrived in China in February to participate in a breeding program to ensure the survival of the endangered species, according to the Associated Press.

Q&A: Health care reform allows no discrimination for pre-existing conditions 03/07/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 7, 2010 3:30am]

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