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Obama administration moves forward on health care regulations

The Obama administration has issued proposed rules under the Affordable Care Act that prohibit insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting health conditions and that outline policies and standards for health benefit plans and wellness programs, agency officials announced.

Officials from the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services announced the changes during a media conference call Tuesday.

One of the proposed rules would prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on a person’s preexisting or chronic health condition. The rule would also limit the factors insurers can use to vary premiums to only age, tobacco use, family size and geography. Basing premiums in any way on health condition, gender, occupation or small employer size or industry would be prohibited.

The rules are necessary to achieve the federal health care law’s goal of “building a health insurance market that works for consumers,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Another rule issued by the administration outlines policies and standards for essential health benefits, while giving flexibility to states to implement the Affordable Care Act and shape how essential health benefits are defined, officials said. The third rule is designed to help create and expand employment-based wellness programs.

Officials said the proposed rules would promote health and help control health care spending while protecting people from unfair underwriting practices that could otherwise reduce benefits based on health status.

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said these rules will allow “workers to access services that can help them and their families lead healthier lives” while at the same time reducing costs for employers.

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