Sunday, March 21, 2010

Healthcare and the Law, 2010

United States' healthcare has been a hot legal and political topic for years. In 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama made healthcare reform a key part of his campaign promise of "change we can believe in." The legislation took many months of Congressional debates, not to mention it requiring the Forty-Fourth U.S. President to spend the past 18 days traveling and campaigning for votes. However, President Obama may soon realize his campaign promise.

On Sunday, March 21, 2010, the U.S. House of Representative finally passed the health bill on a close 219-210 vote, over Republicans' unanimous opposition. As the House was in voting session, demonstrators outside the Capitol building were chanting "just vote no." The Congressional Budget Office has commented that this piece of legislation will extend health coverage to 32 million Americans who are uninsured, and will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people due to pre-existing medical conditions. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden watched the House vote from the Roosevelt Room at the White House. When the Bill passed, President Obama telephoned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to congratulate her. "We did not fear our future," the President commented publicly, "we shaped it."

Last month, Anthem Blue Cross (ABC), California's largest for-profit insurance company, announced its intent to raise premiums by as much as thirty-nine percent, effective March 1, 2010. Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocate group, reacted to this news by filing a class action lawsuit against ABC, on March 1, in the Superior Court of California for the County of Ventura. The lawsuit alleged ABC is forcing the insured into policies with lower coverage at higher costs. Consumer Watchdog has filed a public records request seeking ABC to release its actuarial data underlying the rates. In a February 2010 Congressional hearing, House Democrats accused ABC's parent company of padding its rates beyond the cost increases. The final chapter in this battle is yet to be written. For further news on this matter, run a search on Google.

Robin Mashal is a Los Angeles business attorney, and a partner at the law firm of Hong & Mashal LLP. He can be reached by phone at (310) 286-2000.