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How Does K St. View New Health Care Rules? That Depends. How Does K St. View New Health Care Rules? That Depends.

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How Does K St. View New Health Care Rules? That Depends.


Pigeons fly over the intersection of 17th and K streets in northwest Washington Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006. K Street bisects the nation's capital on a route that stretches from Georgetown through the city's business district into a working-class neighborhood. But "K Street" has long been invoked as shorthand for the monied lobbyists, who ply influence in the city from offices scattered along the avenue or nearby. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The Obama administration's recent move to fill in details of the health care law either raises concerns over affordability or helps allay them. 

It depends who on K Street is talking. 

There's worry on the part of some advocacy groups. 

"While additional flexibility on essential health benefits (EHB) is a positive step, we remain concerned that many families and small businesses will be required to purchase coverage that is more costly than they have today," said America’s Health Insurance Plans President and CEO Karen Ignagni in a statement.

Meanwhile others see the rules as a move in the right direction. 

"Today's announcement is an important step forward in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and in guaranteeing affordable insurance coverage for all Americans. AARP is pleased with the progress these proposed rules make in insurance market reforms, particularly limiting how much health insurers will be allowed to vary premiums based on age," said AARP's Nancy LeaMond said in a statement.

Still others, like the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which so far this year has spent about $16 million on lobbying, underline the importance of affordability but leave vague their interpretation of the rules' effects. 

"We will be closely reviewing all of these rules and developing comments with an eye toward ensuring they will make coverage as affordable as possible, and allow implementation of the Affordable Care Act to go forward smoothly. To make coverage affordable, the essential health benefits package must be reasonable, and insurance reform rules should provide needed flexibility so that people can purchase the coverage they want at a price they can afford," the association said in a statement.

The new Health and Human Services Department guidelines spell out, among other things, how the Affordable Care Act's requirement that insurers cover sick and old applicants will work. 

"Not every choice made by the Health and Human Services Department will please insurance executives. But with a tight timetable for implementation, simply knowing the rules of the road will be enormously helpful to them, and they can now begin designing and pricing plans to sell in state markets," writes our colleague Margot Sanger-Katz for National Journal subscribers

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