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What healthcare reform means for Americans

Juliana D. Norwood | 12/28/2011, 5 p.m.

All of this healthcare reform jibber jabber has certainly left many confused. Last year President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Healthcare Act that promises Americans better coverage.

Changes were instituted as of Sept. 23, 2010.

According to the new plan, if individuals purchased or joined a new plan on or after that date, insurance companies must do the following:

* Cover recommended preventive services without charging out-of-pocket costs. Services like mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations, prenatal and new-baby care are covered, and insurance companies are prohibited from charging deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance.

* Provide an opportunity to appeal coverage decisions. Consumers are guaranteed the right to appeal insurance-company decisions to an independent third party.

* Guarantee enrollees their choice of primary-care provider. Consumers will have their choice of provider within the plan's network of doctors, including OB-GYNs and pediatricians, without a referral, as well as out-of-network emergency care.

According to the proposal, the new provisions are expected to help up to 88 million people by 2013.

Also, insurance companies are prevented from forcing terminally ill patients and those with chronic diseases to accept lifetime limited coverage or refusing coverage.

Other changes include new benefits, protections and cost savings that will be gradually implemented through 2014.

Child dependents are also allowed to receive coverage under their parents' plans until their 26th birthday.

http://ourweekly.com/features/what-healthcare-reform-means-americans