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Federal government releases long-awaited health reform rules

•, By Maggie Fox

As the 2010 health reform law requires, insurers will no longer be able to dump patients who are starting to cost too much, they won’t be able to charge women more than men, they have to cover anyone who can pay and they’ll have to pay for maternity care, eye exams for kids and for mental health services.

“Insurers will not be able to charge someone more just because she is sick or because she used to be sick,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on a conference call.
The new rules from the Health and Human Services Department cover the new state exchanges, where people will be able to buy health insurance starting in 2014.

The rules lay out how much extra insurers can charge to cover certain groups of people, like smokers and people who are older. They also say when states outline so-called essential health benefits – the minimums of what health insurers should cover – they should use the best existing plans as a guideline. HHS also issued some guidelines for employers and insurers who want to offer wellness programs, which encourage people to keep themselves healthy. 

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