Healthcare reform – what’s in it for you today?
While we now have a piece of reform legislation for the president to sign, most who have followed the process understand that much of what is to change will come in a few years rather than producing immediate benefits 0r – depending on your point of view – future disaster.
So, what’s in it for us now?
Here are a few of the changes that take hold immediately-
The immediate creation of a temporary high-risk insurance pool for adults who cannot get insurance due to a pre-existing condition. This is huge. While many are pleased that the concept of denying coverage to those who need it most will soon go away, if you are one of these people, ‘soon’ is just not soon enough. While the provision will kick in for insurance companies in a couple of years, this doesn’t help someone who has been denied coverage and gets sick next week or next year. Now, all of these people can sign up for the temporary government high-risk pool that will give them coverage and security until the rule kicks in for all insurers. Anyone who thinks this is not huge simply does not understand the horrible feeling of having a poor medical history and knowing that you are one heart attack, cancer reoccurrence, etc. away from financial ruin – or worse.
No more pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans. We’ve all heard the stories of families who cannot get health coverage for their families because of a child who was born with an illness or, for that matter, something deemed an ‘illness’ by an insurance company that may be of no significance whatsoever, except as an excuse to deny coverage. As soon as the president signs the bill passed last night, that will not happen any longer.
No more rescission of coverage on existing health plans. Once the bill is signed into law by the president, the days of an insurance company dropping you at the very moment you need them most come to an end. I think that requires no further explanation.
No more annual limit on coverage. Immediately, your insurance company will no longer be able to send you that letter in the middle of your chemotherapy treatment that you have maxed out the amount of coverage you have in any given year. Down the road, insurers will no longer be able to include lifetime limits on coverage which should give comfort to every single one of us.
Relief from the Part D donut hole. This is a bit complex as it is a combination of lower costs to seniors as a result of the deal made with Big Pharma and a $250 payment the government to seniors when they hit the donut hole period of pharmaceutical coverage. This is a small beginning with the plan being to fully end the donut hole over a period of time.
You may now keep your kids on your insurance policy until they reach 26.
Insurance plans are now required to cover preventive medical services and immunizations with no cost sharing. This means that there will be no co-pay when you go to your doctor for a flu shot.
Obviously, there is much in the legislation passed last night that troubles many Americans. Some will tell you it is the largest tax increase in the history of the nation while others tell you that it will help get the economy back on track and make a serious dent in the national deficit.
Set the controversy aside just for the moment. As you look at the list of what will go into effect immediately, and how much many of these provisions will mean to Americans who are terrified that they will be unable to access treatment if they become seriously ill or face financial ruin even if they can get in the door, is there anyone who would step up to say that this is a bad thing?
When you set aside the politics and the political theater, there may be challenges presented by passage of the bill. But why not, just for a moment, feel good for the many people who had the best night sleep they’ve had in a long time last night knowing their family’s lives are, in many ways, more secure that they have ever been.
And as for those politicians sending out letters proclaiming last night as the ‘end of freedom’ in America, can we give it a rest? I understand that many have serious objections to this legislation. But all the foolish drama is about the political futures of these cynical people and not a serious conversation about what is or is not best for the country.
I know. I took a look out my window this morning and couldn’t find so much as one tank patrolling my street.
There will be lots of time to get back into the political bull that passes for debate in this country these days. But for now – and maybe even the next few days – I’m going to enjoy the fact that for better or worse, richer or poorer, there are millions of Americans whose lives took a giant leap towards the better with last night’s congressional proceedings – and that’s not something that happens every day.