Health Insurance Portability: Reform Could Ensure Continued Coverage for Up to 25 Million Americans

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the protections offered by current state and federal health insurance portability reforms; (2) the number of people who could be affected by broader national portability standards; and (3) other issues related to the design of national portability standards.
GAO found that: (1) although current federal and state laws have improved the portability of health insurance, an individual’s health care coverage can still be reduced when changing jobs; (2) 40 states enacted small group insurance regulations between 1990 and 1994 that included portability standards, but the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 prevents states from applying these standards to the health plans of employers who self fund; (3) up to 21 million Americans a year would benefit from federal legislation that would waive preexisting condition exclusions for individuals who have had continuous health care coverage; and (4) as many as 4 million Americans who have been unwilling to leave their jobs because of concerns about losing their health care coverage would benefit from national portability standards.


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