With its passage Sunday night of the bills H.R. 3590 -- the Senate Health Care Reform Bill -- and H.R. 4872 -- the Reconciliation Act of 2010 -- the U.S House of Representatives cleared the way for final enactment of the most sweeping reform of the U.S. health care system since the creation of Medicare in 1965. While the most impactful and controversial elements of the new law, like mandatory health insurance coverage, will not take effect until 2014, many people will see some important changes much sooner.
Small Business Tax Credits: Beginning in calendar year 2010, the bill offers tax credits to help more small business provide their employees with health insurance. Business that begin offering employee health coverage will be eligible tax credits of up to 35 percent of their total employee premium payments. Starting in 2014, the small business tax credits will cover 50 percent of premiums.
Closing the Medicare Part D "Donut Hole": Effective this year, Medicare beneficiaries who fall into the costly Part D prescription drug donut hole will get a $250 rebate. Starting in 2011, the bill institutes a 50-percent discount on brand-name drugs needed by seniors already in the donut hole, and by 2020 completely eliminates the hated donut hole.
Free Preventative Care Under Medicare: Starting January 1, 2011, co-payments for Medicare-covered preventative services will be eliminated. In addition, preventative services will be exempted from deductibles.
Help for Early Retirees: To survive the recession, many businesses have been offering their employees early retirement. To help them, the bill creates a temporary re-insurance program to to help businesses offset the costs related to health benefits for retirees age 55-64. The temporary re-insurance program will become effective 90 days after enactment of the bill and will last until the State Health Insurance Exchanges are available.
Insurance Rescissions Ended: Imagine paying your health insurance premiums for years, and the first time you get really sick, your insurance company drops your coverage. That's called "rescission" and 6 months after the health care reform bill is signed, insurance companies will be banned from doing it.
Immediate Help for the Uninsured: Until the Health Insurance Exchange is set up, the bill provides immediate access, through a temporary high-risk pool, to health insurance for Americans who have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. This benefit takes effect 90 days after final enactment of the bill.
Coverage for Kids With Pre-existing Conditions: Beginning 6 months after final enactment, the bill bans insurance companies from denying coverage for children with pre-existing medical conditions.
Extended Coverage for Your Adult Kids: Six months after final enactment of the bill, young people will - until their 26th birthday -- be allowed to retain coverage under their parent's health care insurance, at the parents' option.
More Doctors and Nurses: Effective immediately, the bill authorizes money to fund programs intended to increase the number of doctors, nurses, and public health professionals.
More Community Health Centers: Beginning this year, the bill authorizes increased funding for Community Health Centers. It is estimated that the increased funding will allow the Health Centers to double the number of patients they can treat over the next 5 years.
No More Lifetime Coverage Limits: Beginning 6 months after final enactment, the bill bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime coverage limits.
More Bang for Your Insurance Buck: Starting on January 1, 2011, insurance companies serving individuals and small groups will be required to prove that they are spending 80 percent of their customers' premium payments on medical services, rather than on things like advertising and executive salaries. Insurers in the large group market will have to spend 85 percent on medical services. Companies that do not meet the standards will have to rebate their customers.