Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Health Care Bill Helps Cancer Patients

Today President Obama signs sweeping legislation that will change our healthcare system. Exaggerations and the rhetoric of fear have obscured the debate to the point that people who will obviously benefit from this law are opposed to it. The bill is complex and easy to misunderstand. But for people with cancer, it offers important benefits.

It outlaws discrimination because of pre-existing conditions. The Big C makes you quite an unpopular risk for Big Insurance. This bill changes that. Starting immediately, individuals without insurance and with a preexisting condition will have access to insurance. Starting in 2014—too long in my estimation—that applies to all individuals with insurance.

It provides a cushion for those of us with high health costs.

• Beginning immediately, it limits the ability of insurance companies to charge higher rates because of health status.

• In January 2014, it will prohibit individual and group plans from placing annual limits on coverage.

• It prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy for any reason other than fraud.

It helps those over 65 with high prescription medicine expenses by reducing the “doughnut hole,” an odd little Medicare glitch that means that once seniors have spent $2,830 on drugs, they must cover the full cost of their medicines until their out-of-pocket expenses have reached $4,550. For more on how it helps seniors, check out the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging blog.

This is not a budget buster. The Congressional Budget Office says the bill will reduce the deficit by $138 billion over the 2010-2019 period. Estimates are that it will cut it by $1.2 trillion in the ten years after that. This is a non-partisan group that took into account all aspects of the bill.

For a complete analysis of the bill, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation’s excellent summary.

And if you wonder how it might affect you financially, check out The Washington Post’s worksheet. What I find most compelling about this tool is its simplicity—no details on health status. That’s because, under this bill, that no longer is an issue.

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