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Mark Your Calendar for Health Insurance Changes

Posted Jun 04 2010 8:35am

It’s amazing how health care reform, a burning issue six months ago, has fallen off the radar (unless you are sick). Nevertheless, Congress did enact something at the end of all that fighting, and pieces of the legislation will begin to go into effect this month. If you have a family, are self-employed, aging, already Ill, or employed by a small company, you might want to mark your calendar for the dates some of the changes take effect.

As of now: insurance companies can’t drop you if you get sick. Known as “recession,” this was probably the worst part of the old system and it should be gone by now, because all the insurance companies have agreed to stop this practice before it becomes mandatory by law do so.

Small businesses that offer health insurance can start taking a tax credit in 2010, too. This lasts until 2013.

June: Temporary access to Insurance for people with preexisting conditions: Ninety days after the enactment of the legislation, on June 21, 2010, there should be a new program that provides access to insurance for individuals with preexisting conditions who have not had insurance coverage for at least six months. This high risk pool will be available until 2014 when the exchanges come on line. Watch carefully for how much the premiums will cost, and remember that you have to had been uninsured for six months to be eligible.

Also this month businesses that carry retirees on their health insurance will receive government subsidies for 80% of the cost of those premiums, up to a cap of $15,000, So don’t listen to all the griping from corporations about the cost of retiree health insurance. Those costs are shifting to the government.

July: Health and Human Services is required to have a web site with information about what plans are available in each state for individuals and small businesses. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to understand this information until next March, when rules for how to present the information in a format that allows for easy comparisons will take effect.

September: the law will prohibit plans from excluding coverage for preexisting conditions for children until the age of 19. and children can stay on the family policy until they are 26. This happens September 23.

Also in September look for coverage for immunization and prevention services with no co-pays.

And here’s a big one: starting in September health insurance companies will have to report how much of your premium they spend on your care. This will be available on the internets, and must be 85% if you are in a large company plan and 80% for small companies and individuals. Behind the scenes, the lobbyists are wildly trying to help write the rules for what counts as care. This is a slimy business right now because it directly affects the insurance company’s profits.

Don’t tune out on all of this now, because the devil is in the details and although you may have gone on to worrying about the oil spill and the financial reform, you can be assured the health industry lobbyists have not. They are still hard at work trying to undermine reform even more assiduously.

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