Just weeks after Congress passed the 2,000-plus page health care reform bill, anecdotal stories are circulating about people walking into health care facilities and demanding their free ObamaCare. Hope you didn’t drop your health insurance policy with the expectation of health care manna from Washington. If you did, better re-enroll fast before you lose your proof of prior creditable coverage. Whether or not opponents succeed in efforts to repeal the bill at the polls or overturn the legislation in the courts, the majority of the mandated changes won’t kick in until 2014. While lawmakers sort out the details and until then, here’s what you can count on now or next year.
The most immediate impacts of the health care bill are few and limited to a small segment of the population. These include:
- Dependent children can remain on your health insurance plan until they reach age 26, unless they are eligible for an employer-provided plan.
- If pre-existing health programs made you uninsurable, you may be able to qualify for coverage through a federal program that the fed hopes to establish before summer. However, the $5 billion earmarked for the program may not be enough to cover everyone who applies and nobody knows yet how much individuals will have to pay for this coverage.
- If you are a senior citizen, you may be able to get help paying for drugs that fall in the donut hole under Medicare. Expect a $250 rebate this year and a 50% reduction in the cost of drugs in the coverage gap next year. Your co-pays and deductibles for some preventive care are now free.
- Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees, that pay annual wages that average less than $50,000 may qualify for a tax credit equal to up to 35% of their total health care premium costs.
- All existing health insurance plans are prohibited from imposing lifetime coverage caps and you cannot be canceled for anything other than fraud.
- Your insurance company is now required to cover certain preventive services including vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the meantime, don’t be surprised if your premiums increase. Among the goofs, gaps and gaffes that continue to surface in the bill as passed is the one that neglected to give the federal government the right to control rate increases. Right now, it can only make your health insurance carrier explain why they want an increase. Congress is already working to close this loophole, as well as the one that inadvertently kicks members of Congress out of their Cadillac health care plans now and into state-based exchanges that won’t come into existence until 2014. Anybody want to bet how long it will take for that to be corrected?