After reading over two thousand pages of the new health insurance law and committee reports about it, in an earlier column I started telling you about some of the new law's benefits. If you are an elderly person, these benefits are important, maybe crucial. Let me tell you more about how this law that became effective in March will help you.
Some health care insurance companies have imposed yearly caps on the amount of medical or hospital care they will pay. Since that seems to be contrary to the idea that in exchange for a premium paid, an insurance company will accept the risk and pay for whatever care is needed, the new act in September will tightly restrict the refusal of payments by insurance carriers and will limit their restrictions to those defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Better than that, effective in 2014, all plans are prohibited from setting those caps.
Next, the new act makes preventive carefree. The idea is that if we can catch disease and illness early, the cost of treating the problems will be so much lower that the health insurance law will actually lower health care costs and save money for businesses, consumers, and the government. I hope that it will. Under the act, new plans are required to cover preventive services with absolutely no co-pays and deductibles. This section of the plan, too, will go into effect in September.
Many people who are uninsured now because of pre-existing conditions have hope, because in about a week, those people will have immediate access to insurance through a temporary, high risk pool. This law helps young people, too. Think about those who are not insured by an employment policy because they are still in school, or they cannot find a job because of a weak economy. Under old concepts, they might have been covered until age 21, but under this law, they will have medical insurance under their parents' policies until they are 26. That is if the parents agree that they will be covered.
Some general provisions of the act also give important benefits to our citizens and communities. One is funding for community health centers to double the number of people who can be seen in these centers in the next 5 years. Another is to provide new investment in training programs to increase the number of health care professionals to reverse the decline that we are seeing now. Both of these provisions will take effect this year.
What if a health care plan isn't responsive to your needs and violates its contract? That's been a common complaint. Under the law, aid is given to states to establish offices of consumer assistance to help people file complaints and appeals. Maybe the cavalry has come to our aid. As always, time will tell. Expect amendments to the act in the next few years.