RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-Today, you can take advantage of five major benefits of the new health care law, and several other important provisions will go into effect by 2015.
To help you better understand the Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010, the federal government created Healthcare.gov, a web portal that explains what's changing and when.
One person who knows the details of the new law is Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Health Policy in the Office of Health Reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In her position, Alvarez is tasked with implementing certain provisions of the law.
She recently spoke to USA.gov and shared the five most essential benefits that you can take advantage of today.
1. Coverage for Children with Pre-Existing Conditions
Previously: Health plans could limit or deny health coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.
Now: The new healthcare law requires health plans to offer coverage to children regardless of whether their health issue was discovered or treated before getting the policy. "For the moment this only applies to children, but by the year 2014 you will not be able to discriminate against anybody who buys coverage based on a pre-existing condition," says Alvarez.
2. Elimination of Annual Limits on Benefits
Previously: Health plans could establish a limit on annual or lifetime benefits, which meant that many people with chronic health problems could end up with limited or no benefits.
Now: Health plans can no longer put limits on the amount of care someone needs.
3. Young Adults Can Remain In Their Parents Health Plan
Previously: Health plans could exclude young adults from their parent's health insurance when the individual reached a certain age or became a full-time student.
Now: Young adults can remain in their parent's health plan until they turn 26. "For young people, it's important that they have health insurance so that they can focus on their career and not worry about where they are going to get coverage," says Alvarez.
4. Preventive Care and Services
Previously: Some health plans were allowed to charge beneficiaries for the costs of certain preventive care measures.
Now: Some health plans are now required to provide different types of preventive care services without co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles. Some of these services include mammograms, colonoscopies, vaccinations and prenatal care. "Because of the cost, people would often use preventive care services at half of the recommended rate," says Alvarez.
5. New Medicare Benefits
Previously: Beneficiaries of Medicare drug plans that reached the gap in coverage called the "Donut Hole" had to pay for the cost of the prescriptions they needed.
Now: People with high prescription drug costs that reach the "Donut Hole" receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name medications covered by their plan. \"It's a big step towards closing the 'Donut Hole' within the next 10 years," says Alvarez.
For more information about other benefits of the law you can visit Healthcare.gov.
USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov are the U.S. Government's official web portals in English and Spanish, and part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).
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