Healthcare Question of the Month

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Question: What does healthcare reform have in store for us in 2011?

Answer:
As we enter the second year of healthcare reform in our country, it’s important to remember why it was so important to implement, and to look at what changes lie ahead for the 2011 calendar year.

The Affordable Care Act has a number of goals:

  • Increasing the number of Americans with health insurance.
  • Reforming the insurance market with improvements like the elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions, guaranteed issue of insurance policies and community rating to make premiums more affordable.
  • Slowing the rate of growth of healthcare costs.
  • Helping to balance the federal budget.
  • Phasing in payment reform that will begin to pay doctors and hospitals for value, not just for volume.

In March, cnn.com posted an article including a timeline of all changes to take place. For 2011, the biggest changes are related to the Medicare system:

  • Free annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans for Medicare enrollees.
  • A 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs for Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage enrollees. 
  • A Medicare payroll tax increase from 1.45 percent to 2.35 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married filing jointly above $250,000.

Additional 2011 provisions include:

  • A tax increase from 10 percent to 20 percent for health savings account withdrawals before age 65 for nonqualified medical expenses.
  • Development of a vehicle for small businesses to offer tax-free benefits.
  • States ability to offer home- and community-based services to the disabled through Medicaid rather than institutional care (beginning October 1).

Of course, the healthcare reform changes from 2010 will remain in place including provisions for parents to keep their adult children on insurance plans until their 26th birthday, a $250 rebate for seniors to help with Medicare prescription drug coverage. It also bans insurers from using lifetime limits on benefits, restrictive annual limits, exclusions for children with pre-existing conditions and policy rescinding when a person becomes ill.

For a complete list of all provisions and to read the referenced article, click here.

 

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