Immediate Benefits of Health Reform

health reformThe health care reform law is a major win for Nebraska children and families.  It will help tens of thousands of Nebraskans gain coverage, provide small businesses with tax credits for more affordable coverage, and will provide serious consumer protections to everyone in Nebraska.

There are several key benefits for Nebraskans that will go into effect this year:

New Access for those who can’t get insurance now:

Those with serious pre-existing conditions who have not been able to purchase insurance will soon have an opportunity to purchase insurance through a high-risk pool.  This pool is scheduled to be up and running this summer.  It is very similar to the Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool that Nebraska already administers, but the premiums should be lower.  To be eligible people will have to have been uninsured for the previous six months.  States were given the option to set up the pool themselves to meet the state’s specific needs.  Governor Heineman, however, opted out.   Instead, Nebraskans will be eligible to participate in the national pool.   Participating in a pool across state lines will hopefully lead to a broader pool and even lower premiums.

New Protections for Children:

  • As of September 23, 2010, children will no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.  This will be critical for families with children with chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes.
  • Also, children will be able to stay on their parent’s insurance until they are 26 years old.  This will officially go into effect on September 23, 2010.  But, happily, many insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska have decided to implement this  immediately.  This will allow graduating college seniors  to remain on their parents’ coverage and avoid a gap in coverage for a few months before the requirement is effective in September.

Consumer Protections and Private Insurance Reforms:

  • In 2010, insurers will no longer be able to put lifetime limits on the dollar value of coverage for any benefit.  This is a great help to those with cancer, for example, who often hit these limits during their treatment.
  • In addition, as of September 2010, insurers will no longer charge co-pays for preventative services like annual check ups.  This is a key component of the new law.  To really bring the costs of health care down we have to create a system that incentivizes preventative care.

Small Business Tax Credits

Tax credits for small businesses will go into effect immediately.  Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average annual wages of less than $50,000 may qualify in 2010-2013 for tax credits up to 35% of the cost of the employer’s contribution to the employee’s health insurance premium.  The amount of the credit will go up in 2014.  Tax exempt small businesses are also eligible for slightly smaller tax credits — 25% in 2010-2013.

These are just a few of the benefits that Nebraskans will see from health care reform.   Check out this blog for more information as implementation moves forward.

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