With continued debate in Washington and swirling misinformation about the health care law, there have been stumbling blocks to realizing just how the law impacts real people. There may be bumps in implementation and there may still be changes to the law if needed. But the health care law incudes many key benefits and protections that are already improving health care for people of all ages; the health care law matters to everyone.
Understanding what changes the health care law brings to the health care system and why those are important to our families is critically important.
For older Americans, the health care law offers a number of improvements. And most importantly, for Americans in Medicare they don’t need to do anything to take advantage of the health care law’s benefits. These benefits include:
- Making Part D Medicare prescription drug coverage more affordable by gradually closing the gap in drug coverage known as the "doughnut hole”.
- Protecting Medicare's guaranteed benefits, including establishing free preventive care benefits – such as colonoscopies and mammograms – that could help catch health problems before they become more serious.
- For those not yet eligible for Medicare, limiting how much health insurers are allowed to vary premiums based on age, stopping the discriminatory practice of charging exorbitant premiums to older Americans.
- Adding years of financial soundness to the Medicare Trust Fund – now expected to remain solvent until 2026.
For consumers of all ages, the health care law offers some important protections from insurance company abuses – some you may not have known existed:
- Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
- Insurers can no longer cancel your coverage because of unintentional mistakes or minor omissions on an application.
- Insurers can no longer limit how much they will pay out in essential medical services over a person’s lifetime.
- Insurance can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage.
And, of course, there will be new access to affordable health coverage for many people who are currently struggling without coverage:
- Starting on October 1, 2013, people without employer-based coverage, small businesses and self-employed people can buy private health insurance through a website where you can shop for and purchase coverage which will start on January 1, 2014. If you have limited income, you may be able to get tax credits to help pay for health insurance.
- Dozens of states, including New Jersey, are expanding their Medicaid programs. This will help those with limited incomes who don’t have access to Medicaid now.
The health care law offers benefits for everyone and it’s time to make sure Americans have the information they need for themselves and their families. AARP will continue to serve as a source of information and support as Americans explore how it matters to them.
State President, AARP New Jersey