Building Blocks of Health Care Reform Put in Place

Today's the day that important health care reform changes begin to be put in place, under the legislation signed by President Obama six months ago.

There's no question that health care reform will result in peace of mind and big improvements for all working people, whether we're workers covered by insured plans or self-insured plans, whether we're facing the threat of layoff, whether we have adult children who don't have a job but need health care, or whether are retired.

For new plans, (those set up after March 23, 2010) changes will take place immediately. For plans already in effect, changes will take effect as of the first plan year beginning after September 23, 2010. For many CWA members covered by employer-sponsored plans that operate on a calendar year basis, the effective date will likely be Jan. 1, 2011 for some of these immediate changes. These changes apply to plans covering active employees.

Some of the big improvements taking place soon:

  • Children and dependents can continue health care coverage under a parent's plan until age 26. Dependents don't have to be students, they don't have to live at home, and they even can be married and still be eligible for health care under a parent's plan if it offers dependent coverage.
  • Insurance companies can't exclude children from health care coverage because of pre-existing health conditions.
  • Insurance companies can't drop health care coverage because they discover some "technical mistake" on a person's application. This was one way insurance companies used to deny claims and stop paying the bills of long time customers who needed cancer treatment, for example, or other costly care. Now that's illegal.
  • Dollar limits on lifetime coverage will be eliminated. This includes coverage of essential health benefits like emergency care, maternity and newborn care, hospitalization and more. In addition, annual dollar limits on coverage will be phased out over the next few years and must be completely eliminated by Jan. 1, 2014.
  • New preventive services and screenings are to be covered without deductibles or copayments in order to encourage utilization of those important wellness services. For retirees, Medicare will cover preventive care and screenings with no deductibles and no co-pays, beginning Jan. 1, 2011.

Want to know more? Check out this presentation by the CWA Research Dept.