What Does Health Care Reform Really Mean?

Now that a health care reform bill has passed, many are wondering what the bill will really do for them. Below is a timeline of when aspects of the bill will go into effect:

In three months:
  • Individuals who have not been able to find coverage because of a pre-existing condition will be eligible for subsidized coverage through a high-risk insurance program.
In six months:
  • Many insurance plans will be prohibited from placing lifetime limits on medical coverage,
  • Insurance companies can no longer cancel policies of people who become ill,
  • Children with pre-existing conditions can not be denied coverage, and
  • Dependent children can remain on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26.
In one year:
  • Senior citizens will receive more help paying for drugs in Medicare,
  • There will be more oversight of premium increases, and
  • Businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average wages of less than $50,000 could qualify for a tax credit of up to 35 percent of the cost of their premiums.
In 2013:
  • Individuals with annual incomes over $200,000 and couples with annual incomes over $250,000 will be required to pay an additional 3.8 percent tax on their investment income and will contribute more to the Medicare program from their payroll taxes, and
  • The most expensive insurance policies will be subject to a new tax.
In 2014:
  • State insurance marketplaces called “exchanges" will be created,
  • Individuals with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied insurance,
  • State Medicaid programs will be expanded,
  • All lifetime and annual limits on coverage would be eliminated
  • Employers with 50 or more workers could face federal fines for not providing insurance coverage,
  • Individuals who do not obtain coverage could face a federal penalty (In the first year they would owe $95, or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater. The penalty would then increase to $695, or 2 percent of income. Families who fall below the income-tax filing thresholds would not owe anything. Nor would people who cannot find a policy that costs less than 8 percent of their income.)

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