Health care history was made this week and a big abortion brouhaha followed, but a lot of us are still scratching our heads, wondering what this bill means in concrete terms. Here, a run-down of the facts especially applicable to women in plain black and white.
- The big idea: the passed health care bill will extend insurance to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured, including 17 million uninsured women. How will this happen? By adding people to Medicaid, extending insurance premium subsidies for low and middle class families, penalizing employers for not offering health care, and creating state-run insurance exchanges where people not covered by one of the initiatives above can shop for competitively priced private plans.
- Starting in 2014, Americans who do not obtain health insurance - whether through an employer, a government program or their own purchase - must pay a fine starting at $95 or 1 percent of income the first year and rising to to $695 or 2 percent of income in future years.
- Effective immediately, insurance plans can no longer set a lifetime cap on coverage, and policies can't be canceled when a person gets sick.
- Within three months of a law taking effect, people who have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition would be eligible for subsidized coverage through a new high-risk insurance program.
- The bill maintains a strict separation between taxpayer funds and private premiums that would pay for abortion coverage. No health plan would be required to offer coverage for abortion. In plans that do cover abortion, policyholders will pay for it separately, and that money will be kept in a separate account from taxpayer money. States could ban abortion coverage in plans offered through the exchange. Exceptions would be made for cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.
- Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage.
- Dependent young adults can stay on their parents health plan until they are 26.
- Effective as soon as the bill is signed into law, it is illegal for insurance companies to maintain existing industry practices that make health care more expensive for women than men.
- Insurance plans are required to cover preventative care, including screenings for breast and cervical cancer.
- Insurance companies will now be required to cover higher percentages of both family planning and maternity care costs.
Does that clear things up a little?
Image Credit: Getty Images