Felicia Muftic – What’s really in the new health care bill
Grand County, CO Colorado
On March 24, many Americans awoke in shock to learn that Obama’s health care reform bill was law. Not only was passage of this a bleeping big deal (to paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden), it is also a bleeping large bit of legislation with multiple impacts on different groups of citizens.
There is a ton of fear and misinformation floating around. Some are afraid their taxes will go up; others think that every small business will now have to offer employees insurance or get fined; others believe they will lose Medicare benefits and others fear they will have to pay for health insurance they cannot afford. Others with employer insurance think their premiums will rise. Others fear the IRS will chase them.
If you are an individual making under $200,000 a year (or a couple making under $250,000), your taxes will not increase. If you are a small business with fewer than 50 employees, you are not mandated to carry insurance for your employees. If you are on Medicare, you will not lose any traditional benefits.
If you cannot afford health insurance, you will get help and credits to pay for it. According to CBO analysts, employer-provided insurance premiums will increase at most 1 percent, or decrease 2 percent. If you as an individual fail to get insurance, there are no IRS penalties. Period.
Parts of the law take effect at once but other provisions will be phased in over four years. Not all 32 million currently uninsured will get access to affordable health insurance until then.
Small business owner? If you have fewer than 50 employees (or 5 employees if you are a construction company) you will not be required to provide insurance and you will not be fined if you don’t. However, there are some incentives to encourage you.
You will be able to eventually tap onto a large group plan. If you have fewer than 25 employees, this year and subsequent years, you are going to get a credit of 35 percent of the cost of giving your employees insurance and in 2014, that will increase to 50 percent.
Young adults: Starting this year, if parents declare them as dependents now, they can stay on their parents’ health plan until their 26th birthday. Four years from now they will be required to have insurance, but will get financial help if their income is too low.
Graduating soon or seeking a new career? Four million new jobs in health care will be created to provide the newly insured 32 million with preventative care, early detection and treatment, and annual checkups.
Immediately, new student loan programs will make it easier to get a career education. For all higher education students, more Pell grants will be available and student loan paybacks will not exceed 10 percent of annual income.
Funding for Community Health Centers will be available for rural, underserved areas. Our emergency services will no longer be burdened with providing charity care for so many uninsured. More struggling families will be eligible for Medicaid coverage, including a family of four with $29,000 annual income.
In four years, those who do not get insurance through employers, Medicare or Medicaid, may be able to qualify for subsidies and access to the new exchanges (a large group plan with a choice of private insurance plans). Subsidies to make insurance in the exchange affordable will be provided on a sliding scale (i.e. families of four making under $88,000 a year may qualify for subsidies).
Immediately, all insurance companies can no longer deny insurance to pre-existing conditions, or drop you when you are sick, or impose arbitrary insurance caps. If you have a pre-existing condition, a “high risk pool” will be established now so you can get affordable insurance. Starting in September, all insurers must provide free preventative care.
Seniors: Immediately, the prescription drug donut hole will be mostly closed and you will not have co-pays for annual checkups.
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