This afternoon, House Democrats introduced health insurance reform legislation to improve the Senate-passed bill. The reconciliation bill is based largely on the improvements put forward by the President's proposal — moving towards the House-passed bill in certain critical areas. Under the legislative package the House will consider later this week (the Senate-passed health bill as amended by the reconciliation bill, many key provisions take effect this year – here are some of them:
SMALL BUSINESS TAX CREDITS
Offers tax credits to small businesses to make employee coverage more affordable. Tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums will be immediately available to firms that choose to offer coverage. Effective beginning for calendar year 2010. (Beginning in 2014, the small business tax credits will cover 50 percent of premiums.)
BEGINS TO CLOSE THE MEDICARE PART D DONUT HOLE
Provides a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the donut hole in 2010. Effective for calendar year 2010. (Beginning in 2011, institutes a 50% discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole; also completely closes the donut hole by 2020.)
FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER MEDICARE
Eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program. Effective beginning January 1, 2011.
HELP FOR EARLY RETIREES
Creates a temporary re-insurance program (until the Exchanges are available) to help offset the costs of expensive health claims for employers that provide health benefits for retirees age 55-64. Effective 90 days after enactment
Bans insurance companies from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Effective 6 months after enactment.
NO DISCRIMINATON AGAINST CHILDREN WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS
Prohibits health insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, this prohibition would apply to all persons.)
BANS LIFETIME LIMITS ON COVERAGE
Prohibits health insurance companies from placing lifetime caps on coverage. Effective 6 months after enactment.
BANS RESTRICTIVE ANNUAL LIMITS ON COVERAGE
Tightly restricts new plans' use of annual limits to ensure access to needed care. These tight restrictions will be defined by HHS. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, the use of any annual limits would be prohibited for all plans.)
FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER NEW PRIVATE PLANS
Requires new private plans to cover preventive services with no co-payments and with preventive services being exempt from deductibles. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2018, this requirement applies to all plans.)
NEW, INDEPENDENT APPEALS PROCESS
Ensures consumers in new plans have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal decisions by their health insurance plan. Effective 6 months after enactment.
ENSURING VALUE FOR PREMIUM PAYMENTS
Requires plans in the individual and small group market to spend 80 percent of premium dollars on medical services, and plans in the large group market to spend 85 percent. Insurers that do not meet these thresholds must provide rebates to policyholders. Effective on January 1, 2011.
IMMEDIATE HELP FOR THE UNINSURED UNTIL EXCHANGE IS AVAILABLE (INTERIM HIGH-RISK POOL)
Provides immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition – through a temporary high-risk pool. Effective 90 days after enactment.
EXTENDS COVERAGE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE UP TO 26TH BIRTHDAY THROUGH PARENTS' INSURANCE
Requires health plans to allow young people up to their 26th birthday to remain on their parents' insurance policy, at the parents' choice. Effective 6 months after enactment.
COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS
Increases funding for Community Health Centers to allow for nearly a doubling of the number of patients seen by the centers over the next 5 years. Effective beginning in fiscal year 2010.
INCREASING NUMBER OF PRIMARY CARE DOCTORS
Provides new investment in training programs to increase the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals. Effective beginning in fiscal year 2010.
PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SALARY
Prohibits new group health plans from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that have the effect of discriminating in favor of higher wage employees. Effective 6 months after enactment.
HEALTH INSURANCE CONSUMER INFORMATION
Provides aid to states in establishing offices of health insurance consumer assistance in order to help individuals with the filing of complaints and appeals. Effective beginning in FY 2010.
CREATES NEW, VOLUNTARY, PUBLIC LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE PROGRAM
Creates a long-term care insurance program to be financed by voluntary payroll deductions to provide benefits to adults who become functionally disabled. Effective on January 1, 2011.