Health Care Reform: You and Your Family

Like it or not, health care reform has arrived!  President Obama signed into law one of the most sweeping social programs since the Great Society days of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  

What exactly is this thing we call health care reform?  For starters…it’s big.  It’s highly controversial.  It’s complicated and difficult to understand.  In certain respects, it raises more questions than it answers, and it’s definitely expensive:  a $1 trillion (probably more) conglomeration of tax credits, new programs, and insurance regulations. 

Most importantly, however, health care reform will affect nearly everyone, even you and me, sooner than later.  Having said that, a closer look is warranted. 

Let’s begin by establishing what health care reform is NOT.  The new law does not impose a revolutionary change that suddenly insures all Americans, nor does it remove doctors and other health care practitioners from the private sector and thrust them into the domain of government employees.  It does not establish a government-run plan like Canada’s.  Last but not least…and much to the delight of this Baby Boomer….the new health care law does not establish death panels.  

What it essentially does is to create a loosely woven safety net for people who are not insured through their employers…or who can’t afford it…or who have pre-existing conditions…or for entrepreneurs who want to start businesses and wish to insure themselves and their employees.  Some provisions take effect now in 2010, while the biggest changes will occur in 2014. 

Following is a summary of changes that will go into effect in 2010.

Expanded Coverage:  Lifetime limits on insurance coverage will become a thing of the past by October.  In addition, new private plans must fully cover preventive services (i.e. mammograms and immunizations). 

Help for Those at High Risk:  As of last month, adults with pre-existing conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months may obtain temporary coverage through a high-risk pool with subsidized premiums.

Kids and Coverage:  As of October, insurers may no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.  In addition, young adults may remain covered by their parents’ plans if unable to get health care benefits through their employers. 

The Doughnut Hole:  Medicare recipients will receive a $250 rebate when they hit the gap in coverage for prescription drugs. 

As you no doubt sense, there is much more to our new health care law.  Stay tuned – we’ll be re-visiting this issue and its impact on you during the next twelve months.

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