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Healthcare law provisions go into effect

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (C) meets with insurance company executives and officials including (L to R) President and CEO of Aetna Ronald A. Williams, Kansas Insurance Department Commissioner Sandy Praeger, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario, and West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jane L. Cline at the White House in Washington on March 4, 2010. UPI/Brendan Hoffman/Pool
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (C) meets with insurance company executives and officials including (L to R) President and CEO of Aetna Ronald A. Williams, Kansas Insurance Department Commissioner Sandy Praeger, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario, and West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jane L. Cline at the White House in Washington on March 4, 2010. UPI/Brendan Hoffman/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The first key initiatives of the new U.S. healthcare law went into effect Thursday, sending insurers scrambling to comply, trade groups said.

Insurers said they are reducing administrative staff to lower overhead, investing in technology and training employees to field an anticipated increase in customer inquiries, The New York Times reported.

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"It is really the Manhattan Project because of the scale and the scope," said Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group.

Health insurers warn that the provisions extending new protections and coverage options to consumers will lead to higher premiums for everyone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Among the provisions effective Thursday:

-- Parents may keep children on their plans until age 26 if the child isn't offered coverage through an employer.

-- Insurers no longer may deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition.

-- Lifetime limits on essential benefits are abolished.

-- Insurers must pay for services such as immunizations, mammograms and colonoscopies, without charging deductibles, co-pays or co-insurance fees.

Changes imposed by the Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act won't be immediate for most consumers, but take effect when a consumer buys a new policy or renews an existing one, the Journal-Constitution said. Insurers also could avoid some requirements if they make no significant changes to their current plan.

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"For Georgia, it really means that people are going to have more options," said Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy at Families USA, a non-profit favoring the law.

The new regulations also could put some insurers out of business, healthcare analysts told the Times. For example, insurers will no longer be able to pick policyholders to avoid covering people who are likely to run up high medical bills.

"A lot of health plans will struggle and fail," said Jeff Fusile, a healthcare partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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