WASHINGTON – Controversy continues to surround the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March 2010. Yet its provisions are slowly rolling out on schedule. Here’s a look at some of the major changes that will result from the legislation:
— Seniors: Seniors will receive help with prescription drug costs, including a $250 check being mailed starting June 2010 for those who enter the “donut hole” coverage gap. Also, effective Jan. 1, they’ll receive drug discounts until the donut hole closes in 2020. All new plans must provide free preventative services for the general public. By Jan. 1, annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans will be free for seniors on Medicare.
— Youth: Individuals under 26 may be carried on their parents’ health care plans, regardless of marital status and location.
— Small businesses: Employers will receive tax credits of up to 35 percent of their contribution to their employees’ health insurance, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010. By Jan. 1, 2014, this will increase to 50 percent.
— Coverage limits: Lifetime limits on insurance coverage were eliminated last month, and annual limits will be regulated until they are eliminated by Jan. 1, 2014. Insurance companies may not rescind coverage. Nor can they deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, beginning now for children and on Jan. 1, 2014 for everyone else.
— Medicaid: States may receive federal aid to cover more low-income individuals and families. Access will increase in 2014, when Americans who earn less than 133 percent of the poverty level will be eligible to enroll.
— Cost: Beginning Jan. 1, at least 85 percent of every health insurance dollar must be spent on health care, which is intended to bring down premiums. Health insurance exchanges will be established by Jan. 1, 2014, to encourage competition. To cut costs across the board, most individuals who can afford it will be required to purchase a basic plan by Jan. 1, 2014.