How The Health Bill Would Affect You

Kaiser Health News has a Q & A for consumers, detailing who would have to get health insurance, what programs are available to help them afford it and how the legislation would affect seniors and young adults (Galewitz, 3/21).

In a separate article, KHN details the immediate effects of the bill. "The provisions, which could just as easily be called the 'Democratic Incumbents' Protection Plan,' suddenly are everywhere—touted on liberal blogs, on the Rachel Maddow Show, in talking points by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They're designed to counter Republican denunciations that the legislation is a government takeover of the health care system that will drain the federal treasury." The "early deliverables" include allowing young adults to remain on their parents' health insurance plans and help for some senior citizens to pay for drugs in Medicare (Appleby and Steadman, 3/21). 

McClatchy provides a breakdown of which provisions go into effect each year, from 2010 through 2018 (3/22).

The New York Times: "The uninsured are clearly the biggest beneficiaries of the legislation, which would extend the health care safety net for the lowest-income Americans. … For people already covered by a large employer — most Americans, in other words — the effect would not be as significant. And yet, just about everyone might benefit from tighter insurance regulations" (Bernard, 3/21). 

The Wall Street Journal offers seven suggestions to consumers of how to prepare for changes in coverage. One idea is to "find a doctor. There could be shortages. Including the reconciliation package, the bill is ultimately expected to add around 32 million people to the insured population, with the big influx starting in 2014. Provisions aimed at boosting the supply of primary-care physicians likely won't kick in fast enough to keep up with the flood of new patients, at least in certain parts of the country. Make sure you are on a doctor's dance card before he or she stops taking new patients" (Mathews, 3/22). 

Marketwatch: "The ban on excluding kids because of illness takes effect six months after passage, but the full adult measure doesn't kick in until 2014. In the meantime, adults with preexisting conditions who've been uninsured for at least six months can enroll in a temporary high-risk pool and receive subsidized premiums, starting three months after the bill's passage" (Gerencher, 3/22).

CNN, on how small businesses would be affected by the legislation: "By no later than 2014, states will have to set up Small Business Health Options Programs, or 'SHOP Exchanges,' where small businesses will be able to pool together to buy insurance. … For the next four years, until the SHOP Exchanges are set up, businesses with 10 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees earning less than $25,000 a year on average will be eligible for a tax credit of 35% of health insurance costs" (deMause, 3/22). 

Reuters, on how the legislation would affect Medicare: "There are no cuts to the traditional Medicare benefit. The lion's share of spending cuts are in Medicare Advantage -- a program that uses private firms such as Humana and UnitedHealth Group to deliver Medicare benefits. Many of these providers offer extra coverage and some of those extras could be dropped..." And, "Medicare will begin paying for annual wellness visits and increase reimbursements for primary care physicians. Currently Medicare only pays for a general checkup when someone first enters the program and many health analysts believe regular check ups would help improve the overall health of elderly people and provide for better coordination of care. Also the bill provides for an improvement in the Medicare prescription drug program. The current program includes a significant coverage gap that the legislation will eventually close" (Smith, 3/22).

Bloomberg/BusinessWeek, on new taxes in the legislation: "High-income investors would pay higher Medicare taxes, tax breaks for out-of-pocket medical deductions would be curtailed, and it would cost insurance companies more to pay executives millions of dollars. Those levies will help fund expansion of Medicaid services for the poor and subsidize health insurance to cover millions who don’t currently have benefits" (Donmoyer, 3/22).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.