Legal Articles



July 27, 2010


Health Care Reform: What it Means to You Now

On July 23, 2010, President Barak Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, the first major health care legislation in the United States in decades. Changes will roll out over the next four years and beyond, with most changes taking place by 2014.

A customer-friendly website, www.healthcare.gov, allows consumers to choose health insurance coverage options and pick the coverage that works for them.

Consumer protection provisions that go into effect September 23 this year include:

  • Children under the age of 19 cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions
  • Insurance companies cannot rescind coverage due to errors or other technical mistakes on the customer's application.
  • Lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits like hospital stays can no longer be imposed.
  • Insurance companies will no longer be able to use annual dollar limits on the amount of insurance coverage a patient may receive.
  • Consumers can appeal insurance company decisions through an external review process.

Cost savings and quality improvements (effective various dates in 2010):

  • Up to 4 million small businesses are eligible for tax credits to help provide insurance benefits to their workers.
  • The gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors has been closed.
  • All new plans must cover certain preventive services (i.e. mammograms, colonoscopies) without charging a deductible, co-pay or co insurance.
  • A $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund will invest in proven prevention and public health programs (i.e. smoking cessation, combating obesity).
  • New resources earmarked to fight health care fraud.

Increasing Access to Affordable Care (effective various dates in 2010):

  • New coverage options will be available to individuals who have been uninsured for six months because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Young adults can stay on their parents' plan until they turn 26.
  • Early retirees will receive financial help to cover the gap between the lapse in their employer-based plan and Medicare.
  • Scholarships and loan repayment programs will be established to encourage more people to enter the primary care workforce.
  • States that implement measures requiring insurance companies to justify their premium increases will be eligible for grants.
  • States will receive federal matching funds to cover some low-income individuals under Medicaid.
  • Rural health care providers will receive payments to attract and retain medical professionals.
  • Funding will be allocated to support construction and expansion of community health centers.

For more information, go to www.healthcare.gov.


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