The 2010 US health care reform bill was passed in March of that year. It includes provisions requiring that most citizens and permanent residents buy at least a minimum level of health insurance coverage.
For needy U.S. residents, federal subsidies will be offered to cap the cost of health insurance to a fairly reasonable one of no more then 9.8% of the individual or family’s income.
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The minimum levels of required health insurance can be bought through an employer health plan or on an individual basis in cases where the employer doesn’t offer this benefit. Those who are self-employed or unemployed fall into this category as well. Individual health insurance offered by health exchanges will be available starting in 2014.
People who don’t comply voluntarily with the law and don’t buy health insurance will be charged a penalty. The amount owed would be either $695 for each family member who does not have insurance (up to a maximum payment of $2,085) or 2.5% of household, whichever amount is greater.
How the Reform Affects Providers and Patients
Insurance companies offering health care coverage now have a larger pool of customers to draw from. They are specifically barred from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions under this legislation. Children with pre-existing health issues will be covered immediately, and this provision extends to adults starting in 2014.
Dependent children will have the option of staying on their parents’ health insurance policy longer. Under the new law, they will be covered up to the age of 26. States will be required to continue funding their Children’s Health Insurance Programs, even if doing so will cause hardship and budget shortfalls.
Starting six months after the bill became law states are required to provide wellness programs for infants, young children and adolescents. These wellness programs must offer services like immunizations with no cost-sharing involved.
Federal Subsidies Available for Health Insurance
A significant number of people who are shopping for individual health care insurance coverage will be eligible to receive some level of financial aid. People earning up to four times the poverty level will be eligible for federal subsidies to help them afford their health insurance coverage. The subsidy awarded will be forwarded directly to the health insurance provider and is recorded as a discount on the cost of the premium rates.
A single person earning up to $44,000 would be eligible for assistance; families earning up to $88,000 meet the threshold as well. The help offered will be on a sliding scale basis, with individuals and families at the lower end of the spectrum receiving a higher level of assistance.
Individuals and families who are earning less than 133% of the federal poverty line annually will be able to enroll in Medicaid to have their health insurance needs met.
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Health Care Reform and Businesses
Companies employing less than 50 people are exempt from the provisions of the legislation that apply to workers. Employers will not be required to offer health insurance to their employees.
However, if a company that employs more than 50 people that doesn’t provide health insurance coverage has an employee who qualifies for a subsidy, the company may be required to pay a penalty of $2,000 per person employed on a full-time basis. (The first 30 people would be excluded from this calculation).
Companies with more than 200 people on the payroll who offer health insurance would be required to enroll all employees in their plan. An employee would have the option of dropping out if he or she wished to do so.
The provisions of the 2010 US health care reform bill mean major changes in how Americans get health insurance. The object of the law is to make coverage readily available to the population and ultimately to improve their overall health. People who avoided getting regular checkups or seeing a doctor until a health concern had developed into a serious condition will be more likely to seek medical assistance sooner.
Waiting to get medical help means that the condition may be more difficult and more expensive to treat. Having affordable insurance in place will help encourage the population to get the preventive care that is necessary for good health. The change in the law will mean the segment of the population that currently does not have health insurance will be able to get access to this important benefit.
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