Congress enacted a health care law that provides several new benefits to all Americans. Many of the benefits and protections in the health care law are particularly critical to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Strengthens the Indian health service:
The law provides for permanent authorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. This includes funding for programs to increase the Indian health care work force, new services for promoting health and preventing disease, additional ways to improve access to health care services, construction of Indian health facilities, and an Indian youth suicide prevention grant program.
Makes health insurance more accessible:
• Those without insurance, small businesses and self-employed people will be able to buy private health insurance through state-based health insurance exchanges by 2014. If you are eligible for insurance through an exchange and do not purchase it, you will be subject to a penalty. You may be able to get tax credits to help you pay your premiums for health insurance you buy through an exchange.
• The law may give you access to insurance coverage before 2014 if you have a pre-existing condition and have been uninsured for at least six months. This coverage — known as the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan — is currently available in your state. Coverage under this program will continue until the health insurance exchanges start in 2014. Then, all insurance plans will be required to cover pre-existing conditions.
• You no longer have to pay some of the out-of-pocket costs for preventive care, such as mammograms, immunizations and screenings for cancer or diabetes.
• If you have Medicare, you qualify for an annual wellness visit, mammograms and other screenings for cancer and diabetes. You do not have to pay for them.
• If you reach the Medicare Part D coverage gap, you receive a 52.5 percent discount on your brand-name prescription drugs and a 21 percent discount on your generic prescription drugs while you are in the coverage gap. The gap will gradually narrow until it disappears in 2020.
Eliminates discriminatory insurance practices:
• Health insurance companies can't drop your health coverage if you become sick. Your health insurance is guaranteed as long as you continue to pay your premiums. There are also new protections in place to limit excessive premiums because of your age or gender.
• Insurance companies can no longer place lifetime or annual limits on your health coverage — giving you peace of mind that your benefits won't run out when you need them the most. The ban on lifetime limits started in 2010, while the ban on annual limits begins in 2014.
Helps pay for long-term care:
• If you are married to someone on Medicaid who is receiving care services at home, you will have the same protections for your income and other resources as do spouses of those on Medicaid who live in a nursing home. This program starts in 2014.
Your state may also be able to receive financial incentives to provide greater access to the services and supports you need to live independently in your own home and community.