Exploring Our Expanding Healthcare

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

The political and historical significance of March 21, 2010 will always be remembered in our country as the day health care expanded coverage to 30 million additional Americans. Known as HR 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a giant step for our current administration. The modified health care system prevents individuals with pre-existing health conditions from being excluded from coverage, decreases the cost of health care and prioritizes preventative medicine. Most of the changes will kick in within four years but you will see some changes immediately implemented. Support from the nation is still divided on whether it is a good policy, but will the immediate benefits surge public support?

According to the NY Times, the landmark bill will require most Americans to have health insurance coverage; would add 16 million people to the Medicaid rolls; and would subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people. It will regulate private insurers more closely, banning practices such as denial of care for pre-existing conditions. The law will cost the government about $938 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which has also estimated that it will reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over a decade.

Preventive Health Care

One thing you may quickly notice is how much easier it is to receive preventive services. Our health care system is shifting from a reactionary medical care model to a more proactive one. The new legislation makes it easier to receive preventive care and vaccines, including all recommended screenings, without shelling out a co-pay or deductible. Anything recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force is covered.

For women, the bill guarantees maternity, newborn and pediatric services, increases preventive care and immunizations, increases family planning services and increases access to prescription drugs. Basic preventive health care services can lower the risk of many diseases and conditions. The American Heart Association iterates, “Prevention costs much less than expensive medical interventions, and in the long run brings more benefits.” What better way to reduce health costs than by keeping people out of the hospitals and using less care in the long run?

You may catch sight of the recent change in our health care system the next time you visit a restaurant. Under the new law, chain restaurants with 20 or more locations are now required to provide a calorie count for each item on their menu. If you request more information for a menu item at a chain restaurant, they must provide you with brochures on the amount of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates and protein. The impetus behind this incentive is that people will choose healthier foods with fewer calories. If you actually see how many calories are in the foods that you are eating, you may be really shocked! Some restaurants are actually preempting the shock value by shrinking portions and/or removing high calorie foods from their menus and replacing them with healthier alternatives.

The Uninsured

According to a Harvard study, American adults age 64 and younger without health insurance are at 40% higher risk of death than those who have coverage. A new federally subsidized insurance program will be established within the next few months to expand coverage to those who were once deemed uninsurable by insurance companies. The law requires states to create or expand buying pools to target uninsured people who can’t get coverage because they can’t afford to, or because of a health condition (i.e., diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.). Those who qualify will end up paying standard rates for their region’s market. They will not be required to pay more because they’re suffering from cancer or other ailments. In addition, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop you when you get sick and young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until they are 26 years old.

Medicare Beneficiaries

HR 3590 will immediately impact people on Medicare. Free annual wellness exams and a personalized prevention plan will come into effect this year for everyone on Medicare. In addition, the new legislation will decrease the out of pocket costs for prescriptions. Prior to the reform, a coverage gap existed for those on the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan that made beneficiaries pay for the entire cost of prescription drugs. Often referred to as the “donut hole”, it began when a senior has spent $2830 out of pocket and lasts until they have paid $4550 on prescription drugs. The new legislation plans on filling the donut hole immediately by giving a $250 rebate to Medicare participants who reach the Part D coverage gap in 2010. By 2020, the donut hole will be completely filled by 2020.

More Benefits

Small businesses will be offered tax credits to make employee coverage more affordable. Up to 35% of premiums will be immediately available to companies choosing to offer coverage. By 2014, the small business tax credits will cover 50% of premiums.

Over the next ten years, $2.5 trillion will be spent on our health care system. There is a new approach to health care in Washington. If you haven’t noticed yet, you will soon. It’s a tough sell for some people, but everyone can agree that we all want to be healthy. If we all make positive behavior and lifestyle decisions, we have less of a chance of being afflicted with a disease or condition. Regardless of current policy, everyone should make it a priority to live a healthy life. This means eating healthy and exercising regularly, not smoking and limiting alcohol intake. With the new health care reform, don’t lose sight of being mindful and aware of how you live.

For more information about health care reform and how it affects you, here are some good guides: MSNBC’s Dose of Reality
US Department of Health and Human Services
The Washington Post: What Does the Health Care Bill Mean to Me?

References:

Condon, Stephanie. “Obama: Give Health Care More Than a Week.” Political Hotsheet. CBSNews, 1 04 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2010. website.

“Factbox- US Healthcare Bill Would Provide Immediate Benefits.” Regulatory News. Reuters, 19 03 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2010. website.

“Health Care Reform Overview.” Times Topics. The New York Times, 26 03 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2010. website.

Heavey, Susan. “Study Links 45,000 U.S. Deaths to Lack of Insurance.” Reuters, 17 09 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2010. website.

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