Landmark legislation overhauling the nation's health care system is to be signed by President Obama on Tuesday. It will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans and reduce federal budget deficits by $143 billion in the coming decade. The package includes a provision by Senator Bernie Sanders to dramatically expand community health centers that provide primary care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs for 20 million Americans. The health center expansion will save taxpayers billions of dollars by treating more people before they get sicker and need to be hospitalized. Millions of workers, families, seniors, small business owners stand to benefit from lower health care costs, improved coverage and strong consumer protections.
What Health Care Reform Means for You Today?
These provisions will go into effect as soon as the legislation is signed into law:
No Denials for Pre-Existing Conditions Insurers may no longer exclude individuals under 19 years old with pre-existing medical conditions. The age limit increases over time. By 2014, people with pre-existing conditions could no longer be denied insurance.
More Young Adults Insured Parents will be allowed to keep their children on their health insurance plan until age 26.
Broader Coverage Within 90 days, people who have been locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition would be eligible for coverage.
Insurance Stability All insurance plans will be barred from imposing lifetime caps on coverage. Insurers can no longer cancel insurance retroactively except for outright fraud.
Prescription Drugs The 4 million Medicare beneficiaries with prescription drug bills so high they are not fully covered will get a $250 rebate this year. Next year, charges will be cut in half for seniors who fall into the Medicare coverage gap known as the doughnut hole.
Tax Credits for Small Businesses Small business owners will no longer be forced to choose between offering health care and hiring new employees. Tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums will help them insure their employees.
Holding Down Premiums Insurers must report how much they spend on medical care versus administrative costs, a step that later will be followed by tighter government review of premium increases.