Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Will Changes In Health Care Effect You?

When my parents were a young married couple, they paid for doctor visits, shots and medicine out-of-pocket. At the time few people had great health insurance, if any.  But in the 60s, office visits cost $6. Shots were $4. Even hospital stays could be paid off in installments of $112 dollars a week [$16 each day] over a short period of time.  And that's how my parents paid for medical expanses, from check-ups to a premature birth.   Those days are gone. Now health care has gotten very sophisticated, and each procedure can cost thousands of dollars.  The reality is an average Joe could quickly go bankrupt without health insurance.
In the United States many of the urban poor are covered.  My hairdresser, who works at a ritzy Manhattan hair salon – but earns a low wage without benefits* – receives comprehensive health care from top New York doctors at a prestigious hospital as a Medicaid patient.  And contrary to what you hear about government-run programs, my retired relatives on Medicare are content with the level of care they receive. Many of us don't remember a time before these safety nets were in place.  Nowadays it's often the middle class who must worry about losing health care should they max out their insurance, or loose their jobs.

So it's worth taking a look at what the Obama Administration fought hard to pass.  Regardless of where you stand on health care reform, some of the changes take effect starting in September.  According to Organizing For America, a pro-Obama volunteer group, here is what the new reforms will do:

Directly quoted:
"1.  Prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick.  Right now, insurance companies can retroactively cancel your policy when you become sick if you or your employer made an unintentional mistake on your paperwork.
2.  Stops insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Beginning in September, discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions will be banned―a protection that will be extended to all Americans in 2014.
3.  Prohibits setting lifetime limits on insurance policies issued or renewed after Sept. 23, 2010. No longer will insurance companies be able to take away coverage at the very moment when patients need it most. More than 100 million Americans have health coverage that imposes lifetime limits on care.
4.  Phases out annual dollar limits on coverage over the next three years.  Even more aggressive than lifetime limits are annual dollar limits on what an insurance company will pay for your health care. For the people with medical costs that hit these limits, the consequences can be devastating.
5.  Allows you to designate any available participating primary care doctor as your provider. You’ll be able to keep the primary care doctor or pediatrician you choose, and see an OB-GYN without referral.
6.  Removes insurance company barriers to receiving emergency care and prevents them from charging you more because you’re out of network. You’ll be able to get emergency care at a hospital outside of your plan’s network without facing higher co-pays or deductibles or having to fight to get approval first.”

And of course, the most controversial aspect of the new health care bill is being challenged in the courts -- namely that everyone must have medical insurance. 

I think it's vital we take the time to learn how the new legislation will effect us and not simply listen to political pundits, who appear on television.  Recommended reading: Heath Care Reform by Jonathan Gruber.  You have every right to your opinion.  Just be informed, so that fear based on misunderstanding doesn't rule the day.

*It's worth noting that businesses, which once offered employees benefits now hire workers as independent contractors, so they don't have to pay for health care.

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