By Nicole Duritz, Vice President, Health, AARP Education & Outreach
Now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of our land, you may wonder, “How does this impact my life?” Here are ten things to know about the law’s protections and benefits:
- 1. Breathe easy. You are now protected against unfair treatment due to an illness or disability.
Health insurance companies can no longer drop your health coverage if you become sick or disabled.
- 2. Insurance companies cannot discriminate against you because of your health condition or gender.
Health insurance companies can no longer charge you more simply because of your health condition or gender.
- 3. Our children are better off now that insurers cannot deny health insurance to anyone under age 19 because of a pre-existing condition, such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.
In 2014, Americans of all ages will have this protection.
- 4. The days when insurance companies could stop paying for your health care—if you spent a certain amount during a year or over your lifetime—are over.
Insurance companies can no longer limit how much they will pay for your medical benefits. Now you never have to worry about your benefits going away when you need them most.
- 5. Staying healthy just got easier! Preventing illness with the right vaccinations and screenings is simpler and less expensive.
Most insurance plans, including Medicare, now must cover preventive benefits such as immunizations and screenings for diabetes, and certain cancers. Be sure to check with your insurance plan about what preventive services are covered with no out of pocket cost to you.
- 6. Finding affordable health coverage is simpler in Health Insurance Marketplaces if you are uninsured.
It’s like an online shopping mall. You’ll be able to compare the benefits and costs of health plans side by side and pick the plan that works best for you and your family in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Information about coverage options through the Marketplace will begin in October 2013. Visit the Health Law Guide at www.aarp.org/healthlawguide to find more information.
- 7. Your children can stay on your family policy until they reach age 26.
Before the law passed, health insurance providers could force young adults off their parents’ policies once they reached 18 or 21, or graduated from college. Now your kids can stay on your family policy until age 26, even if they do not live with you or are married.
- 8. You can sleep well knowing that your guaranteed Medicare benefits are safe.
Medicare got stronger and your guaranteed Medicare benefits are protected. This includes doctor and hospital visits, and rehabilitation services.
- 9. The doughnut hole is going away and your out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs will be lower if you have Medicare.
If you reach the Medicare Part D doughnut hole this year, you will get a 52.5% discount on brand-name prescription drugs and a 21% discount on generic prescription drugs. Visit the Doughnut Hole Calculator at www.aarp.org/doughnuthole. This calculator provides medication options that may reduce your costs or help you avoid the coverage gap entirely.
- 10. There’s help to pay for insurance coverage.
Starting in 2014, if your job does not offer health coverage and you have a limited income, you may be able to get a tax credit to help pay for insurance coverage purchased through a Health Insurance Marketplace.
More Protections and Benefits
In addition to this list, the law also provides more protections for people in nursing homes and if you are a small business owner, you will have more insurance choices and opportunities to qualify for tax credits. You can learn more about these and other protections and benefits available today and in the future with AARP’s Health Law Guide, www.aarp.org/healthlawguide.
Nicole Duritz, is Vice President of Health at AARP, leads the Association’s member and consumer health education and outreach program, which includes work on issues such as Medicare, new health care law, prescription drug affordability, long-term care, prevention and wellness, and wise use of medications.