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What healthcare reform means for Americans

Juliana D. Norwood | 9/21/2011, 5 p.m.

The establishment of the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan to provide coverage to Americans who have been uninsured because of a pre-existing condition.

Launch of the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program to make it easier for businesses to provide coverage to retirees who are not eligible for Medicare.

So what does this mean for young adults?

Through the new law young adults will be able to remain on their parent's plan until their 26th birthday. Up to 1.2 million young adults could gain coverage through this provision of the new law.

Small Businesses?
In this year alone, up to 4 million small businesses may be eligible for tax credits, making it easier for them to provide coverage to their workers.

Seniors?
The law ensures that the U.S. continues to protect seniors' guaranteed Medicare benefits, while taking important steps to fight waste, fraud and abuse. The new law will close the prescription drug coverage gap known as the "donut hole" completely by 2020. In 2010, 4 million people with Medicare who fell into the donut hole received $250 rebate checks. In 2011, people with Medicare in the donut hole receive a 50 percent discount on their covered brand name prescription drugs. In addition, people with Medicare are eligible for an annual wellness visit and free preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies.

Aside from the many provisions that the law has already put into place, 2014 is the year when the remaining aspects of the plan come to fruition. At that time health plans must accept every employer and every individual that applies for coverage. Health plans will no longer be allowed to require individuals to take a health questionnaire or deny them coverage because of their health condition.

Individuals and families will be able to receive subsidies, based on their income, to help buy coverage from their state's health insurance exchange. Also, income-based caps on out-of-pocket medical expenses take effect. People under age 30 can purchase a comprehensive coverage plan or a plan designed just for their age group. Small businesses can purchase insurance for themselves and their employees through the health insurance exchange. Their tax credit will increase to 50 percent of premiums and last for two years. The tax credits are available to employers with fewer than 25 workers and average wages below $40,000 a year.

For more information on healthcare reform and for detailed timelines on the progress of the Affordable Healthcare Act visit I, which contributed to the material in this article.