‘This is What Change Looks Like’
March 22, 2010 | Steph
Last night we sat around our television screens, anxiously waiting for an historic moment to occur and we were not disappointed. With members of the House chanting “Yes we can!” millions around our country felt relief: comprehensive health care reform had finally passed. This was a truly historical moment for the entire country and particularly for the millions of uninsured individuals who will now be afforded access to health insurance.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will make its way to the President’s desk on Tuesday for his signature of this momentous legislation. The Reconciliation Act of 2010 will also move to the Senate this week for approval. After both of these steps are completed, health care reform can begin to be enacted.
But what happens then? The full text of the bill is around 2,400 pages so it is doubtful that many Americans have read the bill from cover to cover (Who has that kind of time?). Look no further! Now that change has come to America, here is a summary of what changes will actually occur for everyday Americans.
In the first year of enactment
Within months of health care reform law taking effect, many of uninsured and underinsured individuals will begin to see benefits. For example, many insurance plans would be prohibited from placing lifetime spending limits on medical care and the law would prevent insurance companies from cancelling insurance plans for individuals who have fallen ill. Additionally, this law would make it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to any child with pre-existing medical conditions.
Do you know a recent college graduate who does not have health insurance coverage? Health care reform law would allow these individuals to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26. Finally, adults with pre-existing conditions who had previously been denied coverage would be able to buy subsidized plans within a high-risk insurance pool. And most of this will occur within the first six months of enactment!
2014 is the magical year that the full health care reform law will be implemented. In 2014, coverage will expand even more through Medicaid and state-run exchanges. The exchanges provide a competitive online marketplace for consumers to ‘shop’ for private insurance plans. Medicaid coverage would be expanded so that more individuals can qualify for the insurance plan. These two steps would afford nearly 32 million more Americans with health insurance.
In 2014, reform will also create greater parameters for insurance companies and individuals. For example, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying anyone coverage because of pre-existing conditions and the law would ban lifetime spending limits for medical care. Additionally, all individuals who meet certain income requirements would be mandated to have health insurance, either through private or public (Medicaid) plans. For private plans, insurance premiums would be capped based on an individual’s income. For individuals who already have employer-based health insurance that they like, very little change will occur for them.
Before the vote last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a speech to the House of Representatives and the country in which she said what many before her have declared: ‘All politics is personal.’ Speaker Pelosi was absolutely right. For the millions of Americans who will now be provided with the health care they need and deserve, health care reform politics is incredibly personal. While this may be the first step in many towards complete health care reform, it was a momentous step taken in the journey to make ‘health care a right, not a privilege.’ Erie stands ready to be a part of this change, expanding our services to meet the needs of our patients, as well as the newly insured patients that will be coming our way.