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U.S. Health Reform Starts to Take Hold
Date:7/18/2010

en uninsured for at least six months and can't get insurance because of a medical condition may enroll in a "Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan."

HHS began offering these plans in 21 states on July 1. The remaining 29 states are operating their own plans and will begin enrolling people by the end of the summer.

A separate provision, effective Sept. 23, does away with pre-existing condition exclusions for children.

For those who had tried to purchase individual insurance until now, there were "huge issues with trying to find coverage for people who have health problems, and that is absolutely true for children," said economist Genevieve M. Kenney, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. "Yes, maybe you would be able to get a policy but it might exclude the very health problem that the child suffers from."

Banning pre-existing condition exclusions won't affect a large number of kids, she said, but it will be a substantial benefit to children who currently don't have access to coverage that meets their needs.

People with significant medical costs

Effective Sept. 23, insurers may no longer place lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits. The law also restricts annual limits on coverage.

"For those people who had catastrophic accidents, cancer, this is very important, and I think for security and peace of mind for people who may not have reached those limits, but know that they're there, that you'd be protected," Sheaks said.

And regulations issued Wednesday now require new private health plans to cover preventive services such as blood pressure tests and cancer screenings with no cost-sharing requirements for consumers.

More information

To learn more about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, visit this U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site.

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