Skip to content

Harkin Marks One-Year Anniversary of Patient's Bill of Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today marked the one-year anniversary of crucial health care protections that have already benefitted millions of Americans.  Established under the Affordable Care Act and known as the Patient’s Bill of Rights, these protections have banned many insurance company abuses, and put consumers, not insurance companies, in control of their health care. This week, the Centers for Disease Control released a survey showing that there were 900,000 fewer uninsured young adults aged 19-25 in the first three months of this year than in 2010. Thanks to the Patient’s Bill of Rights, parents can include adult children under age 26 on their family health insurance policies.  Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, played a pivotal role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law on March 23, 2010.

“These protections have put millions of consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own health care,” said Chairman Harkin.  “After one year, Americans are already seeing the benefits of the health care law. Parents no longer have to worry about their adult children graduating college and being pushed off the family health plan. Women do not have to delay mammograms because of the out-of-pocket costs. With each new provision that has come into effect, and the ones that will be implemented in the coming years, Americans are closer to affordable, reliable health coverage for all. As I’ve said for decades, a focus on preventative care will keep people healthy and out of the hospital in the first place, restraining costs and keeping insurance premiums down over the long term.”

The Patient’s Bill of Rights includes provisions that:

  • Ban discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions – Job-based health plans and new individual plans are not allowed to deny or exclude coverage for children under age 19 based on a pre-existing condition, including a disability.
  • Guarantee free preventive care – All plans now include recommended preventive care with no cost to the consumer.  Services like mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations, pre-natal and new baby care are covered and insurance companies are prohibited from charging deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance.
  • Outlaw practice of dropped coverage based on application errors – Until last year, insurers used technicalities to retroactively cancel coverage for patients who get serious illnesses.  One big insurer specifically targeted women diagnosed with breast cancer, and many companies used to rewarded employees with bonuses based on the number of cancelled policies and the money saved.  Today, insurance companies are banned from cutting off coverage due to mistakes on applications.
  • Crack down on insurance companies limiting coverage – Companies are prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits, such as hospital stays.  Restrictions are imposed on annual limits.
  • Ensure the right to appeal – Consumers can appeal coverage determinations made by their insurer to an independent third party.
  • Extend coverage for young adults – Young adults are now allowed to stay on their parents’ plan until their 26th birthday.

For more information on the Affordable Care Act, please visit, or