What the Health Care Reform Bill Means For Families
Subsidies, guaranteed coverage, and allowances for moms and kids.
by Mikki Halpin
March 23, 2010
Today, President Barack Obama will sign a landmark healthcare reform bill into law. It’s a historic piece of legislation that only made it to his desk after months of debate, millions of blog posts, and a lot of political maneuvering. (Don’t expect the maneuvering to end any time soon.) After the bill passed the House on Sunday, the president hailed it as a moral victory and a credit to the American character, saying, “We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things.” Of course, once the celebration is over, real life reasserts itself, and you’re probably wondering exactly what the passage of House Resolution 4872, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, means for you and your family. Here’s a rundown of the 10 portions of the bill most likely to affect parents and children.
1. 32 million previously uninsured people will have access to affordable coverage
“This is huge,” says Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and co-founder of Moms Rising, a grassroots group that works for legislative and cultural changes that benefit families. “A lot of those 32 million are moms and kids who are basically outside of the healthcare system right now.”
2. Preventive care costs will be greatly reduced or eliminated
Insurance companies will be required to cover mammograms and other types of preventive care such as pregnancy and post-partum depression screenings; co-pays for these services will be eliminated under Medicare.
3. Coverage is ensured for those who move in and out of the workforce – like parents
If you or your partner elects to stay home with your children for a few years, you won’t fall through the cracks of insurance coverage because you don’t have a job. The state insurance exchange programs will provide coverage options for those who lose their jobs, quit, decide to start a small business, or become full-time parents. If you can’t find a plan that costs less than 8% of your income, you will be eligible for a catastrophic plan otherwise intended for those under 30.
4. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage because of a preexisting condition
“Denial of coverage is rampant,” says Finkelstein-Rowe. “And insurance companies have abused this power.” For children under 19, the protection will go into effect six months from the bill’s passage, along with the creation of a plan for so-called “high risk” individuals with pre-existing conditions who have previously been denied coverage. In 2014 when the regional insurance exchanges (government-organized marketplaces) are set up, both children and adults with pre-existing conditions will be able to purchase plans through their local exchange.
5. Insurance companies will no longer be able to drop those who become sick
Last year, for example, more than 6000 Californians were subject to rescission, or having their policies cancelled, when they became ill. The bill outlaws this practice nationwide.
6. Funding for education and services to support mothers and infants
Community groups and clinics can apply for grants to support education and services for new moms and their children. “Studies have shown a huge positive impact for home visitation programs,” says Rowe-Finkbeiner. “It can boost learning, lesson the risk of post-partum depression, and help women in so many ways.”
7. No limits on coverage
Insurance companies will no longer be able to put annual or lifetime limits on coverage, a practice that often sent families into bankruptcy when their coverage ran out and they were faced with huge medical bills on top of a devastating illness.
8. Dependent children can remain on their family’s policy until the age of 26
College students and those just joining the workforce are historically underinsured – nearly a third of them aren’t insured at all. If your daughter’s entry-level job doesn’t offer a plan, she can stay on yours a little longer.
9. Expansion of SCHIP and Medicaid
SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that provides coverage for more than 7 million children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but still cannot afford insurance, is protected and funded completely under this bill. (It was previously scheduled to run out in 2013.) And access to Medicaid is expanded to cover more families – anyone with an income below 133% of the poverty level will be eligible.
10. Tax credits for lower-income and low-income families
Families of four with income of less than $88,000 can get tax credits to help pay insurance premiums and deductibles. These subsidies will be available on a sliding scale, such that you will only pay 3%-9.5% of your income for insurance.
11. Update (3/26/2010): Tax implications of healthcare reform
Some commenters have asked that we address the tax provisions in the healthcare bill. Here are the major ones:
Tax on so-called “Cadillac” health-insurance plans
A 40% tax on employer-sponsored health insurance plans that cost more than $27,500 per family or $10,200 per individual will go into effect in 2018.
Small business tax credit
Businesses with 25 employees or less that pay for 50% or more of their employee’s health insurance premiums will be eligible in 2010 for a tax credit for up to 35% of those costs.
Payroll tax for those earning more than $200,000 annually
In 2013, individuals who earn more than $200,00 and families earning more than $250,000 will have their Medicare Part A payroll tax increased by 0.9% (from 1.45% to 2.35%).
For a great reference on when different reforms (including tax changes) kick in, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Reform Implementation Timeline.
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This article was written by Mikki Halpin for Babble.com, the magazine and community for a new generation of parents.