In Missouri this week, the two candidates for U.S. Senate argued about it. In Maine, the governor praised it. In South Carolina, the insurance commissioner complained it would drive up premiums. In Illinois, a group with the sexy name of The Health Care Reform Implementation Council is meeting about it.
Welcome to the six-month anniversary of healthcare reform.
September 23 is crucial because that’s when the biggest changes (so far) take effect in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Here’s a summary from the government’s website on healthcare reform.
After September 23, 2010, insurer’s can’t:
- Deny coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions
- Put lifetime limits on benefits
- Cancel your policy without proving fraud
- Deny your claim without a chance for appeal
And consumers can:
- Receive cost-free preventive services
- Keep young adults on a parent’s plan until age 26
- Choose a primary care doctor, ob/gyn and pediatrician
- Use the nearest emergency room without penalty
These changes take place for any policy issued or renewed after September 23 – to learn more about each of these new benefits, simply click on any of the links above.
So that’s the good news. Now the bad news…
- Most Americans won’t benefit from these changes until after Jan. 1, when their new health plans kick in. Of course, if you get a new plan right after Sept. 23, you’ll see these changes immediately.
- Increased coverage could lead to increased premiums. According to this report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, average health insurance premiums have increased 114 percent just since 2000 – healthcare reform isn’t going to immediately reverse that trend. One new report claims that American families are paying 14 percent more for their health insurance coverage this year than last year – an average increase of $482. Most of that jump isn’t because of higher insurance rates – it’s because employers are paying less of the cost. And that’s another trend that will probably continue – yet another study [PDF] says that next year, 63 percent of employers will hike the percentage their employees contribute and 46 percent will increase employee out-of-pocket costs.
- Some health insurance providers would rather drop than switch. In St. Louis, two big insurers have announced they won’t offer any more health insurance policies solely covering children, because of the pre-existing condition provisions of the new law.
The “full force” of healthcare reform doesn’t happen until 2014. Tomorrow is just the appetizer – and very likely a catalyst for increased debate over health care and our government’s role in it. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for health insurance right now, our health insurance comparison tool can help.