How Health Care Reform Affects You NOW

March 23, 2011

It’s been one year since health care reform was passed, but few of us are any closer to understanding all the things that it actually does or will do.  Confusion has probably been the number one result of the legislation to date.  So what exactly does the bill do?  Several measures have already taken effect.  MSNBC  put together an in depth look at all the controversies brewing over whether to repeal it or leave it alone, but first, let’s see what exactly it’s doing for Americans right now:

  • Insurance companies no longer allowed to discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions
  • Insurance companies barred from placing lifetime caps on benefits
  • Insurance companies barred from dropping patients’ coverage when they get sick
  • Children allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until their 26th birthday
  •  A 10% tax on indoor tanning services
  • Insurance companies must prove they spend 80% to 85% of premium revenue on medical services
  • Insurance companies required to disclose rate increases (and the reason) of 10% or more
  •  Government-run insurance plan set up for adults with preexisting conditions who are denied coverage
  • Seniors receive a $250 rebate to help cover the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare drug coverage
  •  Free preventative care covered by Medicare and private plans. 
  •  Nursing mothers to be allowed lactation breaks
  •  Government-run long-term care program set up. For those who participate, people pay premiums for five years and then will receive benefits if they need them
  • Small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees) begin receiving tax credits covering 35% of premiums to help them buy coverage. (This credit jumps to 50% in 2014.)
  • States receive billions in funding for community health centers
  • Drug companies face $2.5 billion in fees (rises in later years)
  • Creation of a government research institute created in to examine the effectiveness of medical treatments
  • Establishment of a Medicare Independent Advisory Board, which will be tasked with trying to keep Medicare spending down and submitting legislative proposals to do so. It will first submit recommendations in 2016.

Okay, what happens next.  Republicans argue the bill was front-loaded with postive stuff, but then launches the rub.  Here are some of the measures that take effect in the coming years:

  • In 2013, new taxes and fees go into effect for:
    •  individuals making more than $200,000 a year (and families making more than $250,000 a year)
    • on dividends and interest
    • on sales of medical devices
  • By 2014, the individual mandate goes into effect — if you don’t have insurance, you have to buy it or face a fee.
  • By 2016, that fee will be 2.5% of your income or $695 a year, whichever is more.

Click here to read more on MSNBC’s First Read.