Health care reform you can take advantage of now

By Constance Gustke Posted : 11/16/2010

Health care reform nowKey health insurance changes are available now as part of this year's federal health care reform initiatives. If you suffer from serious health problems or pre-existing conditions, this is the time to take advantage of these changes. They include:

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New pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIP).-These plans are designed to help people who have difficulty buying health insurance due to pre-existing health conditions.

To join the plans, you must be a U.S. citizen who has gone without health insurance coverage for at least six months. If you qualify, the plan includes a full range of services such as primary and specialty care, hospital care and prescription drugs.

This summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began offering PCIP plans in 21 states. Plan premiums range from $320 to $570 per month for a 50-year-old enrollee, depending on where you live. Policyholders pay premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia operate their own plans. Check with HealthCare.gov to research both state and federally run plans. You can also apply for both types of PCIP plans online.

Qualification requirements vary from state to state, but generally you'll need to be uninsured and have trouble getting insurance. States such as Florida also require a letter from at least one insurer that denied you coverage within the past six months.

Some states still are scrambling to flesh out plan details. PCIPs will only be available until 2014; after that, all health insurance companies must provide coverage to any person with a pre-existing condition.

Young adults now covered up to age 26.- Children up to age 26 who do not have access to coverage through an employer-sponsored health plan are now eligible for health care coverage under their parents' health insurance policy. Children may remain on the plan even if they're married, living away from home or attending school. This provision applies to policies that began after Sept. 23, 2010.

No rescission of health insurance. Insurance companies can no longer cancel -- or rescind -- your insurance because you unintentionally left out personal information on your application. Intentional fraud is, of course, an exception.

This provision applies to policies that began after Sept. 23, 2010, and it applies to both employer and individual plans.

No lifetime or annual limits on coverage. Insurers can't impose lifetime cost limits on medical coverage, as of Sept. 23, 2010. This key reform means people with serious illnesses such as leukemia won't be cut off from their insurance.

Annual limits, which are less common and affect 19 percent of individual plans, are being phased out and eventually will not be allowed.

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