Millions opposed and millions had hope. The country was split but the Congress' vote was 219 - 212 in favor of Health Care Reform. There have been jokes and somber anecdotes, but the century-long quest for near universal coverage came to a climax a month ago, when the reform bill was signed into law.
Whether or not all Americans are on board, with tens of millions more set to be insured, we are about to see some change. But for many, the question remains,"How will this affect me?" Let's talk immediate change, or “early deliverables”:
- First, the bill will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, or anyone under the age of 19. By 2014, they won't be able to deny coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition. Check out Jon Stewart poking fun at insurance companies who are looking for loopholes in this requirement.
- Along those lines, it is now illegal for insurance companies to drop your coverage if you get sick. Adults with pre-existing conditions will be able to buy coverage through expanded high-risk pools, a federal program.
- For those of you who have yet to celebrate your 27th birthday and are currently enrolled on your parents' plan, you will now be able to stay on your parents' health care plan instead of needing a separate policy.
- Women scored a victory on equality. Effective upon the signing of the bill, it is now illegal for insurance companies to make health care more expensive for women than it is for men. Also, insurance companies will be required to cover higher percentages of both family planning and maternity care costs. Preventative care, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, will now be guaranteed as well.
- In terms of business, companies with fewer than 25 employees and average wages of less than $50,000 could qualify for a tax credit of up to 35 percent of the cost of their premiums. Finally, insurers must report how much they spend on medical care versus administrative costs, a step that later will be followed by tighter government review of premium increases.
- In addition, all existing insurance plans will be barred from setting a limit on the coverage they will provide for individuals in the course of a lifetime.
You may be asking, "Where does the money come from?" The new health care reform law is full of new taxes, tax increases, and tax breaks that will affect many individuals and businesses, but it may be years before most of these increases take a bite out of your -- or your company's - wallet. Until then, a few elected officials suggest we start paying for health care on a barter system, using chickens or vegetables, as lampooned by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
- For now, it's worth noting that a big chunk of the money to pay for the bill comes from raising payroll taxes on households making more than $250,000. On average, the annual tax bill for households making more than $1 million a year will rise by $46,000 in 2013.
- Another major piece of financing would cut Medicare subsidies for private insurers, ultimately affecting their executives and shareholders.
- Plus, starting in 2014, Americans who can afford health insurance but refuse to buy it will face a fine of up to $695 or 2.5% of their income, whichever is higher. This is known as the individual mandate provision. However, there are exemptions and tax breaks for those who cannot afford insurance.
- And for those of you who like to get your tan on, there will be a 10% excise tax on indoor tanning services provided after June 30.
Remember, health care makes up 1/6th of the U.S. economy. Even though a bill has been passed there will be plenty of battles and developments ahead. To stay up to date on this issue, follow our daily headlines on Twitter or check out out Health Care Reform Issue page. History is being made every day.