The health care legislation could "have an effect on almost every citizen," according to Kaiser Health News. So what should you expect?
Within six months after the bill is signed into law:
- Health insurers will no longer be allowed to impose lifetime caps on coverage.
- Parents who have insurance through their employers will be allowed to continue coverage for their unmarried dependents up to age 26.
- Health insurers will be required to cover certain preventive services like osteoporosis screening for women over 65, smoking cessation counseling and interventions, and screenings for diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases.
- And later this year, people with serious health conditions that have prevented them from obtaining coverage will be eligible to purchase a policy from a high-risk pool in a government-subsidized exchange at a cost similar to healthy individuals' premiums.
Individuals will also be required to obtain health insurance or face a fine. Government subsidies will be available on a sliding scale for people making up to $43,000 per year (or nearly $90,000 per year for a family of four), but those who don't qualify for government subsidies should expect to pay about $5,000 a year for a policy on the exchange, while families should expect to pay about $15,000, says John Goodman, president, CEO and Kellye Wright Fellow of the National Center for Policy Analysis.
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The penalty starts in 2014 at $95 or up to 1 percent of income for individuals, whichever is greater, and rises to $695 by 2016 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater. Families pay heftier fines - $2,085 or 2.5 percent of income by 2016.
- Insurers won't be able to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions.
- Maternity support will be increased for women in the workplace.
- Additional, less expensive insurance options will be available when you lose or quit your job.
Increasing the number of insured individuals, however, will also mean longer waits to see a new doctor. In Massachusetts, for example, where health insurance is universal, Boston residents have to wait about twice as long to see a doctor as people in any other U.S. city, says Goodman.
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Source: Deborah Kotz, "8 Ways Health Reform Will Affect You," U.S. News and World Report, March 22, 2010.
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