Monday, March 22, 2010

The Benefits of Health Care Reform

Many folks have asked, "What, exactly, will health reform mean to me?" Below is a list of some of the many benefits available to children, youth, families, and older adults through health care reform. If you would like more detailed information on everything in the legislation, visit the Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Benefits for Children, Youth, and Families*

· Guarantee access to health coverage for 95% of all children
· Prevent insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions or annual or lifetime limits (eliminating pre-existing conditions for children will take effect immediately)
· Children now covered in parent’s plan till age 26
· Expansion of CHIP for children aging out of foster care
· Medicaid expansion up to 133% of poverty
· Medicaid reimbursement rate raised for states
· Maintain the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) until it is determined whether the new “health insurance exchanges” are safe for children and provide them benefits and cost protections comparable to or better than they have now
· Fund CHIP through 2015 – doubling the number of eligible CHIP children that can be served from 7 to 14 million
· Extend coverage for youths in foster care to age 26.

Benefits for Seniors*

· Encourage states to develop more choices of long-term care services, to enable older people to live in their own homes instead of more expensive nursing homes.
· New regulations on insurance companies would bar them from dropping the coverage of people who get sick, and from putting lifetime caps on coverage. Starting in six months insurance companies could not discriminate against children with preexisting conditions; by 2014 all ages would receive that protection.
· Those in Medicare Part D who fall into the “doughnut hole,” and have to pay all their prescription drug costs for part of the year, would get immediate help this year from a $250 rebate. Next year they would get a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, and by 2020 the doughnut hole would be closed completely.
· Medicare would cover preventive services with no copayments, and those costs would not apply to the deductible.
· A new insurance exchange would help people who don’t have affordable insurance through their jobs. Until the exchange is set up, employers who give health care benefits for retirees ages 55 to 64 would get federal aid through a temporary reinsurance program.
· A new long-term care insurance program, which workers could pay into, would help them if they become ill or disabled and need help with basic services in order to stay in their homes.
· The Senate bill would strengthen Medicare by requiring insurance companies to competitively bid to offer private Medicare Advantage plans, a move that is estimated to save $118 billion from 2010 to 2019. Currently Medicare beneficiaries are subsidizing enrollees in these plans, which cost an average of 14 percent more than traditional Medicare.

* Benefits assume enactment of Reconciliation Patch (the Senate is expected to pass the patch later this week).

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