The uninsured are among the biggest winners of the new healthcare reform law, which mandates coverage for as many as 32 million people who are currently uninsured, either because health plans consider them too sick to insure or because they cannot afford to pay rising premiums.
The approach to insuring the uninsured will be incremental.
Consumers will have more opportunities to take control of their health insurance choices when the Department of Health and Human Services goes live on July 1 with a website where individuals can identify affordable health insurance coverage options in their home states. This will help consumers choose the plan that is best for them.
Beginning within six months of March 23 (when President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law), health plans will be prohibited from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, all pre-existing condition exclusions will be prohibited. Consumers who are currently uninsured because of a pre-existing condition will be able to purchase affordable insurance through a temporary, subsidized high-risk pool. This program will cease in 2014 when consumers will be able to purchase insurance through state-based health exchanges if their employer does not provide coverage or they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Tax credits aimed at helping subsidize health insurance premiums will apply to individuals earning less than $44,000 and families earning less than $88,000.
Also beginning in 2014, individuals with an income below 133 percent of the poverty level (about $29,327 in 2009 for a family of four) will be eligible for Medicaid.
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