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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The United States Senate passed the health care reconciliation bill today

March 25, 2010

The United States Senate passed the health care reconciliation bill today, so the long road to better health care is over, at least for now. We are all curious to find out exactly what is in the new health care bill, so here is a summary of the important points.

•       Insurance companies cannot drop you if you get sick or make a claim.
•       If you previously could not get insurance because you have a pre-existing condition, you will immediately be able to get quality insurance through an “insurance pool”. This shares the risk fairly among insurance companies.
•       New private plans and Medicare must provide free preventative care. Other Medicare benefits will not be changed.
•       There is a ban on life time caps on coverage. Yearly caps cannot be overly restrictive.
•       Consumers will be able to directly appeal any coverage decisions by their insurance company.
•       Insurance companies must spend at least 80% of the premiums that they are paid on actual health care – or send a rebate to their consumers.
•       If you are on Medicare, drug companies will give you a 50% discount on drugs. Also, hit the “donut hole” for drug coverage, you will get a rebate check starting this year. Over time, the amount of the rebate will increase, until the “hole” is filled.

Children will be covered under their parents’ health care until they are 26, and they cannot be dropped if they have a pre-existing condition.

Employers will receive tax credits and assistance for insuring employees and people who take early retirement.

If you do not have insurance through work, you will receive help to afford it
Tax credits
•       Insurance companies cannot deny you credit
•       They cannot charge you more because you did not have insurance before, or because you have a pre-existing condition.

Starting in 2014, everyone will have to buy health insurance. To help, the government will give subsidies to moderate income families, and low income families will be covered by government plans (like Medicaid).

Starting in 2018, there will be a 40% tax on “luxury” health care plans. This will in essence provide a cap on how much insurance companies can charge for insurance, because few people will be able to pay the high premiums.

There are also some other changes that will help improve health care.
•       Community health centers will be built to greatly increase access to medical care.
•       There will be more money available to train doctors, nurses, and public health workers.
•       Improved coordination of care will save money and result in better outcomes.

Although personally I was hoping for a single payer option, I am satisfied that this law will remove some of the worst abuses of the insurance companies. It also helps make insurance more affordable for individuals and families, and protects children and those on Medicare.
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