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United Healthcare's Move Fuels Health Care Controversy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnetonka-based United Healthcare has announced it will voluntarily offer many of the major benefits in the controversial new federal health care law - no matter how the U.S. Supreme Court rules.

The nation's largest health care insurer will continue the most popular reforms in the new federal health care law, which is so controversial that opponents are trying to get it declared unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court will decide the case this month, re-igniting the health care debate right in the middle of the presidential campaign.

United Healthcare will continue to offer dependent coverage to Age 26, no co-pays for preventive care, and no lifetime dollar limits on coverage.

But there's one big item not on the list. United Healthcare will not cover children with pre-existing medical conditions unless it's forced to.

Minnesota Legislators like Rep. Erin Murphy say that's wrong.

"When we have a policy that says you have a pre-existing condition so you can be shut out, we're putting the financial interest before the health interests," said Murphy.

The politics of the Affordable Care Act remain divisive, and the law is deeply unpopular.

A CBS News/New York Times poll last week showed that 68 percent of Americans want the Supreme Court to overturn the law: 41 percent want the law overturned, while 27 percent want the mandate overturned.

Republican strategists say whatever the Supreme Court does, it's an effective campaign issue.

Ben Golnick of Golnick Strategies says this is smart business and smart politics.

"This is the free market speaking. I think they see this as a way to make themselves more competitive against some of the other companies out there," said Golnick. "So I think this is a good thing to see the free market at work."

United Healthcare insures 38 million people, with annual revenues of nearly $100 billion. It is a leader in health care, and it's very possible other health care companies will follow suit.

Covering pre-existing conditions is a very significant health care change that is now required under the health care law by 2014.

United Health declined WCCO's request for an on-camera interview on Monday. A spokesperson told us "one company acting alone" cannot take the step, and they want to work with other companies.

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