Key provisions of new health care law go into effect Sept. 23

health care law changes kick in with cupcakes

Provisions of health care reform designed to curb abuses by health insurance companies kicked in Sept. 23 for new plans. Image: CC clevercupcakes/Flickr

The new health care law passed six months ago. On Sept. 23, several changes in the U.S. health care system start going into effect. Many of the more controversial parts of health care reform don’t start for a few more years. But key reforms such as coverage despite pre-existing conditions begin Thursday. Republicans are increasing their anti-health care reform rhetoric. President Obama has responded with his own vigorous defense of the new health care law. Though a majority of Americans were in favor of the law upon its passage, a majority now disapprove as it kicks in.

Health care reform for majority delayed until 2011

Health care reform actually won’t go into effect for most Americans until next year. The Wall Street Journal reports that the changes kick in immediately for new health plans started on or after Sept. 23. Employed people who get health insurance as a job benefit won’t see any changes until their plans renew during open enrollment — usually Jan. 1. The changes valid Sept. 23 were designed as a bridge until 2014, when subsidies for health plans will be available for people who can’t afford them. At that time, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or else be fined.

Health insurance changes going into effect

Key changes that go into affect for new health plans started after Sept. 23 included the following, courtesy of CNN:

Children under age 19 can no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. The same goes for adults in 2014.

Insurance companies can no longer drop a customer when they get sick or look for mistakes on their application for the purpose to deny payment when they get sick.

Preventive care such as physicals, mammograms and colonoscopies no longer require a co-payment or deductible.

Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits, such as lifesaving treatments.

Patients no longer need to get prior authorization from their insurance company or a doctor’s referral to see a pediatrician or OB/GYN.

Insurance companies must discontinue prior authorization for ER services. Plus, they can’t charge higher co-payments for out-of-network ER providers.

Insurance companies can’t refuse a claim in appeal, and have to continue paying for treatment until the  appeal is resolved.

White House fights public misconceptions

Republican misinformation campaigns have fueled public opinion about health care reform. A recent Rasumssen poll counted 61 percent in favor of repealing the health care law. The Los Angeles Times reports that to fend off Republican attacks, the White House has unveiled a new website, whitehouse.gov/healthreform. The site presents stories from around the U.S about how the law has benefited ordinary Americans. In a meeting with state insurance commissioners Wednesday, Obama, speaking about the provisions going into effect Sept. 23, said:

“These things are designed not to have government more involved in health care. They’re designed to make sure that you have basic protections in your interactions with your insurance company, that you’re getting what you paid for, that you have some basic measures of protection.”

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