Uncertainty in Health Care Reform Law Causes Worry About Care Limits

In February 2011, a federal judge ruled that Congress violated the Constitution by requiring Americans to buy insurance as part of the health overhaul passed last year, and said the entire law “must be declared void.” With his ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson set up a clash over whether the Obama administration still has the authority to carry out the law designed to expand insurance to 32 million Americans.

An attorney for the plaintiffs said the ruling meant the 26 states challenging the law must halt implementation of pieces that apply to states and certain small businesses represented by plaintiffs. But the Obama administration said it has no to plans to halt implementation of the law. Already, it has mailed rebate checks to seniors with high prescription drug costs, helped set up insurance pools for people with pre-existing medical conditions and required insurers to allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until they reach age 26.

“We will continue to operate as we have previously,” a senior administration official said.

Meanwhile, faced with the uncertainty of the implementation of the law, patients around the country are growing anxious and worried about what the court’s ruling, and the politics of Washington, will mean for their own healthcare and insurance policies. For example, Hillary St. Pierre, a 28-year-old former registered nurse who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had expected to reach her insurance plan’s $2 million limit this year. Under the new law, the cap was eliminated when the policy she gets through her husband’s employer was renewed this year.

Ms. St. Pierre, who has already come close once before to losing her coverage because she had reached the plan’s maximum, says she does not know what she will do if the cap is reinstated. “I will be forced to stop treatment or to alter my treatment,” Ms. St. Pierre, who lives in Charlestown, N.H., with her husband and son, said in an e-mail.
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