Well, it is an historic day as health reform has finally passed. Yes, it is a watered down bill that leaves much to be desired but...it is a start. After months of stops, starts, rhetoric, fear mongering, empty promises and long, heated debate, many Americans are not sure of what just passed. It will have different effects on different people and many of the provisions are delayed until 2014. Here are a few features of the new bill:
- Insurers will be prohibited right away from excluding children with pre-existing health conditions. Adults will have to wait until 2014 to be assured of coverage.
- Health plans will have to provide immunizations and other preventive health services for children and adolescents.
- Insurers cannot charge higher insurance premiums for woman and maternity care is covered.
- Most US citizens and legal residents must purchase "minimal essential coverage" for themselves and their dependents, either through the employer or exchanges that will sell policies to individuals. By 2014 you will pay a tax penalty if you ignore this mandate.
- The government will subsidize the purchase of insurance at incomes of four times the poverty level. For one person that is $44,000/year. For a family of four it is $88,000/year. The federal subsidy would go straight to the insurer. Really poor people would enroll in a newly expanded Medicaid program.
- Insurance companies will be prohibited from placing lifetime caps on their policies.
- Employers with 50 or fewer workers would be exempt from coverage provisions. If a firm has more than 50 employees it is not required to offer health insurance but if an employee gets a subsidy from the feds to purchase insurance on his own, the employer will be taxed a fee for every full-time worker.
- Small businesses will be eligible for tax credits in exchange for providing health insurance.
- Parents can keep children on their plans until they reach age 26.
- People with incomes of $200K or more and families with incomes of $250K will be subject to a new 3.8% "Medicare Tax".
That all sounds pretty good to me.