Health reform's immediate benefits

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To listen to the conservative extremists who took over the Republican Party, you’d think that the new health care reform law means the sky is crashing down; we’ll soon have to wait six months, while walking around in chains, just to get a couple of aspirin; our grandmothers will be killed; Stalin will rise from the grave; and Satan will take up residence in our medicine cabinets.

Back in the real world, most of the law’s provisions take effect in 2014, but here are some things of immediate interest that will kick in within a year:

Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime coverage limits. Annual caps are seriously limited, and will be eliminated in 2014.

Kids with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health insurance, or given insurance “except for the pre-existing condition.”

Insurance companies cannot drop you when you get sick.

You can stay on your parents’ health insurance till you’re 26.

Small businesses get tax credits, up to 50 percent of premium costs, for providing health insurance to employees.

Insurance companies will cover many preventive services at no charge to enrollees.

A temporary program will help adults with pre-existing conditions get coverage, with limits on the cost of premiums (roughly $500 per month, still high but better than the $1700/month a friend was “offered” in a “special” deal from Blue Cross Blue Shield).

Seniors get a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who reach the Part D coverage gap (aka, “the donut hole”) in 2010; a free planning visit with the patient’s primary care doctor; and no more co-pays for preventative services.

Insurance companies have to reveal how much they spend on overhead and, if it’s excessive, they have to offer rebates to customers.

No death panels.

Now, back to those conservative firebrands who say they will run in November on a platform of repealing health care reform. They don’t seem to realize it yet, but if the GOP honestly expects to be successful by promising to take away the benefits listed above — plus, the rest of the package that takes effect in 2014 — they have a big, big date with the Brick Wall of Reality headed their way. Try to name anyone, or any party, that has won elections by promising to take away benefits. You can’t. I’m not saying the GOP can’t pick up seats in Congress, but it will have to come from emphasizing the lack of jobs. If they pitch an ongoing fit of pissing and moaning about their big loss on the health care issue, it will only serve to make them seem even more tunnel-visioned and mean-spirited than they already do.

Source of information: The North Carolina Health Access Coalition.

The GOP health care agenda
  • The GOP health care agenda

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