Several watchdog groups have written to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to protest that the health insurance industry is still discriminating against the sick in terms of harder access to care and onerous pricing for medicines, despite the antidiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Among the 300 groups writing — all supporters of the ACA — were the AIDS Institute, the American Lung Association, Easter Seals, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Kidney Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy. The groups' plea for help is being enjoined by some state insurance commissioners.

The biggest concern, along with the tighter selection of physicians and facilities on most plans, is the insurance industry's habit of placing certain medications on a "high-price tier," in order to shift obligations to the patient to cover the difference on what are deemed to be "expensive" diseases, which can be $2,000 or more on certain medications.

America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's trade group, says consumers have choices of different plans, some of which offer bigger networks and bigger coverage but at a higher premium.

HHS has promised a reply to the groups' letter, but it has not arrived yet.