With the launch of the HealthCare.Gov website, the White House rolled out, in record time, the platform that will likely power the new health insurance exchanges promised in 2014. In the interim, HealthCare.Gov will provide Americans with important new health insurance information, and starting October 1st, will showcase a pre-2014 exchange of sorts. HealthCare.Gov as currently rolled out provides some impressive first steps in making health insurance accessible to many of those currently uninsured.
– a timeline for implementing the Health Care Affordability Act that describes each provision of the Act, along with when each becomes effective;
– health insurance options for all 50 states and the District of Columbia; and
– a Compare Quality link that promises quality of care and outcomes information for the nation’s hospitals.
HealthCare.Gov outlines what’s new and already in effect, including:
– $250 rebate checks that starting in June 2010 are being sent out to seniors each month when they hit the Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole;”
– tax credits worth up to 35% of employer’s contributions to health insurance that will help up to 4 million small businesses provide insurance benefits to low wage and many middle class workers;
– federal matching funds for states opting to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals and families not currently eligible for Medicaid;
– a $5 billion program to subsidize employment-based plans opting to provide coverage to early retirees ages 55 to 65 including spouses and dependents;
– tax deductions for scholarships and loan repayments for primary care doctors and nurses working in underserved areas; and
– a new national program that provides access to insurance for uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions.
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan provides new coverage options for individuals who have been uninsured for at least six months because of a pre-existing condition. Some states are opting to set up and administer their own pre-existing conditions coverage plan — individuals in states not opting to do so will be eligible for the plan established by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan provides a bridge to 2014 when pre-existing conditions will be required by law to be covered by all insurance carriers.
Effective September 23, 2010, the Health Care Affordability Act puts in place a number of important provisions, including:
– coverage for young adults under their parent’s plan until they turn 26 years old;
– coverage for preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance;
– insurance companies will be prohibited from rescinding coverage when covered individuals become sick;
– insurance companies will be prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits such as hospital stays;
– annual limits on coverage will be regulated;
– insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to children under the age of 19 due for any pre-existing condition;
– new funding will be made available to support construction of, and expansion of services at, community health centers expected to serve approximately 20 million new patients;
– prescription drug discounts of 50 percent for seniors when they reach the coverage gap on Medicare Part D covered brand-name prescription drugs; and
– free preventive services for seniors on Medicare such as wellness visits and personalized prevention plans.
The big changes may not come until the promised Health Insurance Exchanges are established in January 2014. Beginning in 2014, fully competitive health insurance marketplaces will be established through which individuals and small businesses will be able to buy affordable health insurance. These marketplaces will be very much like the current Federal Employees Health Benefit program that serves over 10 million federal employees, retirees and their families — including members of congress. Tax credits for many middle class individuals and families, as well as small businesses, will kick in to further sweeten the deal.
And while 2014 sounds like a long time off, and it is, here’s a scoop. Beginning October 1, 2010, HealthCare.Gov will be providing detailed comparative health insurance plan information, including pricing information, for dozens of health insurance plans that are being made available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Indications are that while the Republicans are talking repeal of the Health Care Affordability Act, the health insurance industry is embracing the new HealthCare.Gov marketplace in a big way. Stay tuned and check out the new HealthCare.Gov website.