May 2010

Health Care Reform: What it Means for You
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President Obama signed into law sweeping legislation in March to renovate America's health care system—extending coverage to millions of working families and ending abusive insurance industry practices.

"This bill is a big first step on the road toward reforming our health care system so it works for everyone," said International President Edwin D. Hill. "Finally, affordable and comprehensive health care coverage will be available for millions of working Americans."

Many IBEW members are asking: how will the bill affect me and my family? For members who are happy with their current coverage, little will change.

While many of the bill's provisions will not go into effect until 2014, the following reforms will be effective this summer:

If you have private health insurance:

  • No need to change doctors or plans
  • Insurance companies can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick
  • Health care plans cannot place lifetime limits on coverage, nor can they have restrictive annual limits
  • Children can remain on their parents' health plan up until their 26th birthday
  • The proposed excise tax on benefits has been put off until 2018 and its dollar impact has been reduced by 85 percent, thanks to the efforts of the labor movement

If you don't have private insurance:

  • For those who can't get insurance because of a pre-existing condition, the government will help provide immediate affordable coverage through a temporary purchasing pool
  • Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be refused insurance
  • If you own a small business:
  • Tax credits up to 35 percent of premiums are available immediately

If you are retired:

  • Medicare Part D recipients who fall into the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole—which lies between the program's initial coverage limit and the catastrophic coverage maximum—will receive a $250 rebate. In 2011, seniors who fall in the doughnut hole will have a 50 percent discount on their prescription drugs
  • Insurers can't charge seniors more than three times the amount younger people pay
  • Starting in 2011, seniors will receive free annual check-ups. Co-payments for mammograms, colonoscopies and other screenings will be eliminated
  • The federal government will provide financial assistance to employer health plans that cover early retirees

In 2014, the following reforms will be effective:

  • No discrimination against anyone with a pre-existing condition
  • Through state sponsored purchasing exchanges and financial subsidies for working families, an additional 30 million Americans will have access to affordable health care coverage
  • Guaranteed renewal of policies
  • Cap on out-of-pocket expenses
  • Tax credits of 50 percent for small businesses to cover premiums