Health care improvements — ahead of schedule

HEALTH CARE IMPROVEMENTS — AHEAD OF SCHEDULE…. Marc Thiessen recently urged Republicans to fight as hard as they can to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The GOP need not fear political repercussions, the Bush speechwriter turned Washington Post columnist said, because Americans won’t see the law’s benefits kick in for several years. “The charge that Republicans are ‘taking away your benefits’ will hardly ring true for Americans who don’t yet enjoy those benefits,” he said.

It’s worth appreciating, then, that new benefits are already kicking in, in some cases, well ahead of schedule.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen many major insurers begin implementing a provision of the law that allows young adults to stay on their family health care plan through their 26th birthday. What’s more, the industry agreed to stop denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions (after initially intending to exploit an alleged loophole in the law).

And this week, consumers and families received more good news — the industry will scrap its “rescission” practices, four months before the new federal ban was scheduled to go into effect.

The health insurance industry has decided to end its practice of cancelling claims once a patient gets sick next month, well before the new health care law would have required it, the industry’s chief spokesman said Wednesday.

“While many health plans already abide by the standards outlined in the new law, our community is committed to implementing the new standards in May 2010 to ensure that individuals and families will have greater peace of mind when purchasing coverage on their own,” AHIP president and chief executive Karen Ignagni said in a letter to top House Democrats.

The decision to end rescission, as the practice is known, was made during a Tuesday afternoon conference call of chief executives organized by their trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and represents the industry’s latest attempt to build political good will after the bruising health care fight.

The heartening announcement on rescissions came on the heels of a Reuters report on WellPoint routinely dropping coverage for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Yesterday, the company said it would end the practice by this weekend.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer described all of this as “a clear sign of momentum for changing the health care status quo.”

Go ahead, Republicans. Promise to undo all of this progress, turn back the clock, and eliminate these needed, popular advances. I dare you.