By AARP Executive Council Member Mike Tucker
With all the noise swirling around the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, it is only natural to have questions.
Whatever your views are about the law, it is important to understand some basic facts, so you can make the right health care decisions for you and your family.
Here are some things everyone should know about the Affordable Care Act:
• If you already have insurance, you and your loved ones have gained important protections. Starting next year, you no longer will be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, nor will you be dropped from your plan if you get sick.
• If you have Medicare Part D, you will save on prescription drugs if you fall into the doughnut hole. You also will qualify for important preventive services at no cost to you.
• If you do not have health insurance or buy it on your own, there’s a new way to shop for it through a health insurance marketplace. The health law creates the new Washington Healthplanfinder (wahealthplanfinder.org) to help you get the coverage you need, with benefits starting next year. Depending on your income, you may also be able to get financial help covering the costs.
Open enrollment in the Washington Healthplanfinder begins this October, and coverage will start as early as January. The health law mandates that all health plans offered to those who buy insurance on their own or in small groups must include a set of “essential health benefits,” such as preventive and wellness benefits, prescription drug coverage, and emergency care.
In addition to the marketplace, there are even more benefits and protections to help you and your family. Young adults now have easier access to coverage, because they can stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. That’s a significant benefit at a time when so many young people are unemployed.
Seniors gain, as well. In our own state more than 829,000 people who rely on Medicare for their health coverage can be assured that their benefits are protected. In fact, certain benefits have improved.
If you have Medicare Part D, and you reach the coverage gap or “doughnut hole,” you will get more than a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs, and more than a 20 percent discount on generic drugs. These discounts will continue until 2020, when the doughnut hole disappears altogether.
Medicare now covers yearly wellness visits and preventive care. This benefit – at no cost to you – includes screenings for cancer, cholesterol and diabetes, immunizations, diet counseling and more.
Other parts of the law could have a big impact on people too young for Medicare. Insurers can no longer place dollar limits on the care they cover in a year – or over your lifetime. Further, health insurers must now cover vital preventive services, including screenings for diabetes and cholesterol, mammograms, flu shots and other immunizations, as well as counseling to quit smoking and eat right.
Also, the law helps all taxpayers by increasing efforts to fight fraud, scams and waste in Medicare. And it supports small business by reducing red tape and offering a tax credit.
Given all these provisions, it’s no surprise that people have questions about the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, the answers are just a few clicks away.
For practical, customized information on how the law affects you and your loved ones, just go to HealthLawAnswers.org.
In the three years since it passed Congress, a great deal has been said about the health law - much of it inaccurate. Now it’s time to understand what it really means.