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Wyoming's Oldest and Youngest to Reap Immediate Benefits of Health Reform

The health system overhaul President Obama signed into law in March held within it some big promises. In 10 years, 32 million more Americans will have health insurance while the federal deficit will drop $124 billion. Wyomingites will see many benefits between then and now, especially seniors and young people.

Older adults caught in the prescription drug coverage gap will be helped immediately. Beginning in June, the new law offers $250 for those in the Medicare Part D doughnut hole. Of the approximately 76,000 Wyomingites on Medicare, roughly a third of them fell into the doughnut hole in 2007, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan advocacy group.

In Wyoming, more than 71,000 people—about 15 percent of the population—are uninsured, including about 11,000 residents ages 50-64, who went without insurance in 2008, according to Kaiser. If they were uninsured for 6 consecutive months due to a preexisting condition, they will be able to buy insurance through a new temporary federal insurance program that caps out of pocket spending, which is set to launch in July and continue through 2014 when the new insurance exchanges open—the insurance exchanges will not be able to deny coverage to anyone because of a preexisting health condition.

The new law helps younger people, too. Starting in September, insurance companies can no longer deny children coverage for having a preexisting condition. And beginning this fall, young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.

Small business owners are eligible for tax credits in 2010 to help insure employees, and will be able in 2011 to apply for grants lasting up to five years to establish wellness programs for employees.

Some of the biggest changes happen in 2014, when most Americans must have insurance or pay a fine. The government will offer subsidies to people who have to buy coverage on their own. And insurance companies won’t be able to deny coverage to adults for preexisting conditions.

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