Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Health Reform Bill - what does it mean for the disabled?

On Sunday, March 21, 2010 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the health-care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and two days later President Obama signed it into law. 

Our first question was, "What does it mean for the children and adults with disabilities and their families?"

Here's some of the changes that will take place within six months of the enactment of the bill – or by end of September:

  • Insurers would be prohibited from excluding coverage based on pre-existing conditions;
  • Insurers would be prevented from selectively refusing to renew coverage;
  • Insurers would no longer be able to charge people different premiums based on their health status, gender or occupation;
  • A standardized annual out-of-pocket spending limit would be established so that no family would face bankruptcy due to medical expenses;
  • Annual and lifetime benefit caps would be prohibited;
  • Mental health would be covered;
  • “Habilitative” and “maintenance services” would be covered;
  • “Behavioral health treatments” would be covered;
  • Insurers would be required to keep young adults as beneficiaries on their parents' health plans until they turn 26,
  • Insurance companies would no longer be allowed to deny coverage to sick children.

The following changes will not take place until 2014:

  • Americans will for the first time be required to carry health insurance — either through an employer, through a government program or by buying it for themselves.
  • Tax credits to help pay for premiums will start flowing to families with incomes up to $88,000 a year
  • Medicaid will be expanded to cover more low-income people.

"These reforms will allow Americans to achieve full health and recovery through significant investments in expanded health care access, including mental health, substance use, rehabilitation and prevention services, as well as collaborative care and chronic care management," said Laurel Stine, director of federal relations at the Bazelon Center. "This is particularly notable given that four of the ten leading causes of disability in the United States are mental disorders and 87 percent of Americans cite lack of insurance coverage as the top reason for not seeking mental health services,"adds Stine.

What are your biggest concerns regarding healthcare and the disabled? Share them with us!

Sources: Children’s Defense Fund; Associated Press

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