Congress passed historic Health Care Reform three months ago and already many important benefits are beginning to take effect. I wanted to give you an update on that progress.
For seniors: Health Reform will close the notorious “donut hole,” which is a gap in prescription drug coverage. This month Medicare began mailing $250 checks to seniors who have fallen into the donut hole. We’ve all heard heartbreaking stories about seniors forced to choose between paying for groceries and filling their prescriptions, and I’m proud to say that this $250 rebate check is the first step in closing the donut hole completely.
Beginning next year, seniors who fall into the donut hole will get 50 percent discounts on brand name drugs. The donut hole will also begin to shrink next year, and it will soon close completely. For further information about benefits for seniors, please click here.
For small businesses: Already, over 500,000 California small businesses are eligible to apply for small business tax credits. These credits, available for companies with fewer than 25 employees and average wages under $50,000, will make it easier for them to provide health insurance to their employees.
Once the new state exchanges – marketplaces where small businesses and individuals can purchase health insurance – are up and running, small businesses will benefit from access to more affordable plans by leveraging group purchasing power currently only available to larger businesses. More information and frequently asked questions about how the new law helps small businesses can be found by clicking here.
For young adults: On September 23, 2010, insurance plans must allow parents to keep their children on their plans through age 26. I’m pleased to report that the Secretary of Health & Human Services began working with insurance companies to urge them to implement this provision earlier than required by law and many have already begun to allow children to remain on their parents’ insurance plans. This couldn’t come at a better time as many young adults have just recently graduated from college, but don’t yet have employment that provides health insurance. A helpful recap of how Health Reform benefits young adults can be accessed here.
Consumer protections: Too many of my constituents have told me about routine abuses by insurance companies: denial of coverage for having a “preexisting condition,” which in some cases has included Caesarian sections or being a victim of domestic violence; dropping of coverage for people who become sick or are injured in an accident; and cutting off coverage when a patient’s health costs reach a certain dollar amount.
Health Reform is ending these abuses. This year’s reforms include prohibiting insurance companies from placing lifetime limits on your coverage, prohibiting discrimination against children for so-called “preexisting conditions,” and putting an end to recissions (the practice of dropping people when they become sick or injured). Further consumer protections will take effect soon.
Other first-year benefits: Beginning on June 21, a new program to encourage employers to offer coverage to early retirees will take effect. Ten days later, a new program to help individuals with preexisting conditions obtain more affordable coverage will start. And in order to shore up our nation’s health care workforce, an additional $250 million in scholarships, grants and loan repayment programs for training primary care physicians, physician assistants and nurses will be made available over the coming months. A full list of benefits taking effect in the first year can be found here.
Lois Capps represents California’s 23td Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.