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Rob on the Road

How the Affordable Care Act Helps You

Find out what benefits are already in effect

When I travel around the country, many of you say you'd like to know what the new health care law means for you — and for everyone over 50.

Get ready for some good news!

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making it easier for people to get, keep and afford health care benefits. It helps protect consumers from discriminatory insurance practices, and it strengthens coverage for people who are on Medicare.

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Many benefits are already in effect:

  • A number of insurance plans, including Medicare, now cover more preventive services, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, with no out-of-pocket costs to you.

  • The law has been gradually closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap, the "doughnut hole." In 2013, if you reach this gap, you receive a 52.5 percent discount on your brand-name prescriptions and a 21 percent discount on generics. Savings increase each year until the gap is closed in 2020.

  • Insurers can't drop your coverage even if you become sick or disabled.

  • Parents can keep their adult children on their health insurance until they reach age 26.

  • Plans can't limit how much they pay for your lifetime medical costs. Beginning January 2014, the law also prohibits annual limits on the dollar amount of coverage for an individual.

  • Plans can't deny coverage for children under age 19 who have preexisting conditions. The provision extends to people of all ages in 2014.

  • Health insurance marketplaces, often called exchanges, will open in every state, making it easier for people without insurance, small businesses and self-employed workers to buy private health insurance. Coverage begins January 2014, but by this October, any American can compare plans and buy health insurance online.

  • The ACA is also making Medicare more secure through cost savings that extend the program's financial life by several years. For the latest information on the ACA and for a personalized guide to how the law works for you, try the interactive tool on our aarp.org website.

AARP listened to you, our members, and fought to make your health care benefits — and Medicare — stronger. Now we're here to help make the new law easier to understand. You're not alone.

Robert Romasco is the president of AARP.

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