Congress enacted a new health care law which brings a number of benefits to all Americans, including people over 50. Some of these changes you will see this year. Others phase in over the next several years.
Whether you are on Medicare, buy insurance on your own or through your employer, or can’t afford health insurance, the changes to the health care system will affect you. By knowing what’s in the law and when the different provisions take effect, you can take advantage of the changes for yourself and your family.
Here are some immediate benefits of health insurance reform this year:
- Offers a one-time $250 rebate for Medicare Part D enrollees who fall into the prescription drug doughnut hole in 2010.
- Allows Americans to keep their coverage if they like it.
- Helps Young Adults: If your young adult son or daughter needs health insurance, you can cover them on your insurance policy until they are 26.
- Prevents insurance companies from dropping the sick. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you affordable coverage when you get sick.
- Provides preventive care: Your insurance company will be required to provide you with preventive services like immunizations and screenings for cancer or diabetes, free of charge.
- Covers the Sick: If you can’t find affordable coverage because of your medical history and you have been uninsured for at least six months, you will have access to temporary insurance coverage. Children with preexisting conditions will be able to get immediate coverage.
- Helps Small Businesses: If you work for a small business, your employer may be eligible for tax credits that would cover up to 35 percent of your premiums.
Starting in 2011, benefits will be expanded to:
- Close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole. Beginning in 2011, if you reach the doughnut hole, you will receive a 50 percent discount on your brand-name drugs. The doughnut hole will be fully closed by 2020.
- Provide free Medicare coverage for wellness and preventive care.
- Workers start participating in a voluntary national insurance program to help pay for future long-term care services and supports.
- Many of the major health insurance reforms will kick in by 2014:
- Exchanges begin offering health insurance coverage with comprehensive benefits.
- Premium subsidies are available for those with limited incomes who purchase health insurance through an exchange.
- Children, parents and childless adults who do not have Medicare and have a limited income can apply for Medicaid.
- Insurance companies are banned from placing annual limits on health coverage nor can they deny anyone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
AARP now has on-line resources for people with questions about the health care law. Each week, we’re answering the top questions about health reform emailed by readers to HCRquestions@aarp.org.
Our Get the Facts website hosts a user-friendly guide to understanding the benefits of the new health care law, as well as fact sheets in plain language on various topics including prescription drugs and long-term care. The page offers information both for people in Medicare and for those with private health insurance. Check back often as information will be continually updated to help you get the most out of the new law.