The sweeping new healthcare reform bill signed into law on March 23 mandates changes in coverage, care and costs.
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In terms of coverage:
- By 2014, most U.S. citizens and legal residents will be required to purchase minimal essential healthcare insurance for themselves and their dependents. Exceptions include certain individuals with religious objections, American Indians, illegal immigrants and people in prison.
- Healthcare coverage can be bought through an employer. If the employer doesn't offer healthcare insurance, however, people will be able to buy it through new marketplaces called "exchanges." Each state must establish an exchange through which its residents can shop, compare and purchase coverage at competitive rates.
Pre-existing conditions are no longer excluded.
- Now Insurers can't deny new or renewal coverage because of past or current medical conditions or genetic testing results. Effective Sept. 23, 2010, for children and Jan. 1, 2014, for adults, insurers will no longer be able to exclude people with pre-existing conditions from being covered by their family policy.
Paying for healthcare insurance is another issue that the new reform addresses.
- The federal government will provide subsidies for lower- and middle-income individuals and families without employer-provided coverage. Financial assistance will be calculated on a sliding scale, with people making less receiving more in the way of a subsidy.
- If you haven't purchased health insurance by 2014, there will be a small tax penalty which, when fully phased in by 2016, will be substantial.