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How to Understand Health Care Reform

Wondering how the Affordable Care Act affects you? The health care reform bill, passed in March 2010, included 46 key provisions. Here are some highlights.


  • Step 1: Realize the timeline Realize that not all of the provisions of the law went into effect immediately. The changes are being implemented gradually, with some of them not starting until 2014.
  • Step 2: Understand the immediate changes Understand some of the immediate changes: patients under 19 can't be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition, insurance companies can no longer rescind coverage, preventive services like mammograms are fully covered, children may remain on a parent's health insurance plan until age 26, and lifetime coverage limits have been prohibited.
  • TIP: The provision concerning young adult coverage takes effect whenever health plans renew coverage on or after September 23, 2010, so some adult children may have a gap in coverage.
  • Step 3: Review the 2011 changes Review the 2011 health care reform measures: free preventive services for seniors on Medicare, a new program designed to connect seniors to community care after hospital stays, and prescription drug discounts for qualified seniors.
  • TIP: An Independent Payment Advisory Board will focus on ways to reduce Medicare costs and waste.
  • Step 4: Examine the 2012 provisions Understand the health care reform provisions of 2012: financial incentives to hospitals to improve their quality of care, a switch from paper to electronic health records, and the establishment of a long-term care insurance program for adults who become disabled.
  • Step 5: Look at the 2013 laws Take a look at the provisions slated for 2013: Medicare will adopt a new bundle payment system designed to encourage health care providers to work more efficiently, Medicaid payments to primary-care doctors will increase, and states will receive additional funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers children not eligible for Medicaid.
  • Step 6: Check out 2014 Check out the key 2014 changes: individuals who don't already have health insurance are required to buy it or pay a fee, insurance companies may not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, annual coverage limits are eliminated, and people who can't sign up for coverage through their employers may buy it through exchanges that offers a choice of affordable health plans. And, in case you were wondering, members of Congress will get their health care insurance through exchanges, too.
  • FACT: According to "":, the Affordable Care Act is expected to reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion by 2020 by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud, and abuse.

You Will Need

  • Key provisions

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