Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (a.ka. - Health Care Law) into law last March, there have been many changes to our health care system. This September 2010 marks another important milestone. It's been six months since the law's passing, and new benefits are available.
Take a minute to review the rollout process, making sure that you stay on top of the benefits that may apply to you and your loved ones in the coming months and, yes, even years.
- Many plans are now prohibited from placing lifetime limits on medical coverage, and they cannot cancel the policies of people who fall ill.
- Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. Dependent children can remain on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26.
- Private plans must cover peventive services with no co-payments, and with preventive services being exempt from deductibles.
- Insurers are no longer able to cancel your health insurance retroactively due to an unintentional mistake made by you or your employer on your paperwork.
- A way to appeal insurance company coverage determinations or claims is established along with an external review process.
- States are granted money to investigate unreasonable rate hikes by private insurance companies.
- People who have been without insurance because of a pre-existing condition are now eligible for subsidized coverage through a new, high-risk insurance program.
- Early retirees, age 55-64, now have access to a temporary re-insurance program (until the exchanges take effect in 2014) to help offset the cost of expensive premiums for employers and retirees.
- A $250 rebate to Medicare prescription drug plan beneficiaries whose initial benefits run out.
- Some senior citizens will get more help paying for drugs in Medicare.
- People with health problems that left them uninsurable will qualify for coverage through a federal program.
- Other first-year items will include more oversight of premium increases and tax credits for some small businesses.
- Financial incentives to become a primary care doctor or nurse and financial incentives for working in an underserved rural area.
- Individual and small group market insurance plans will need to spend 80 percent of premium dollars on medical services. Larger plans, they’ll need to spend at least 85 percent. Free preventive care under Medicare.
- The law eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare Program.
- Seniors who have reached the Medicare Part D “donut hole” coverage gap will be given a 50% discount on brand name drugs.
- Free preventative care for seniors on Medicare.
- States will be allowed to offer home and community based services to individuals with disabilities through Medicaid instead of institutional care in nursing homes.
- The big changes will kick-in around 2014, including insurance marketplaces called "exchanges;" rules requiring insurers to accept all applicants, even those with health problems, and an expansion of state Medicaid programs.
- Families earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level (about $88,000 a year) will get subsidies to purchase health insurance.
- Many employers — those with 50 or more workers — could face federal fines for not providing insurance coverage. Several of the other changes would take effect much sooner.
- Most people will be required to obtain coverage or face penalties and federal fines.
- A 40 percent excise tax on high-end insurance policies will come into effect.
- Thirty-two million, previously uninsured men, women and children, will be insured and receiving access to much-needed health care services.