The new health care legislation can help some uninsured people with low incomes, pre-existing medical conditions, or seniors finally find affordable health care coverage. But can these new laws benefit my kids? - Elisa
There's a lot of confusion around the new laws, so it's important to learn as much as you can about the rules and benefits. That way, you can make the best decision for your family when it comes to choosing health care coverage.
The new laws, which were passed through The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as Obamacare — may help people who have no health insurance or who would like more choices when it comes to affording health care.
That means that if you are currently happy with your insurance plan and your kids are covered, there's nothing you need to do. Your kids can stay on your insurance plan. And they will get some added perks, including the benefit of staying on your plan until they are 26 years old.
If you and your kids are not insured, will be dropped from coverage soon, or are unhappy with your current coverage, some new options might be available to you. First, the majority of kids from low- or middle-income families will continue to qualify for free or low-cost health care through universal Medicaid and/or the state-run Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). These programs have been in effect for years and will continue to provide benefits.
But now through Obamacare, many privately run health insurance companies will offer similar benefits to parents and kids. These benefits will include:
26 free preventive services, such as immunizations; screening tests for conditions like autism, obesity, depression, and hearing problems; iron and other vitamin supplements for kids with deficiencies; drug counseling; and more. Certain uninsured pregnant women also may benefit from preventive services, although this benefit may not fully be in effect until 2014.
Obamacare's "essential health benefits," which include ambulatory and ER care, hospital stays, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse services, prescription drug plans, rehabilitative care, and lab work. Dental and vision care is covered until a child reaches age 19.
Medical, dental, and vision coverage for a child under age 19, even if he or she has a disability or pre-existing medical condition like diabetes or asthma.
Coverage under a parent's plan until an adult child is 26. Adult children under age 30 who outgrow this service and are uninsured may qualify for what's called "catastrophic insurance" — insurance that helps minimize the cost of medical care for those on limited incomes.
It's important to note that not all uninsured parents will qualify for these plans, but most children will. And now insurance companies can't set lifetime caps on coverage, which previously could mean that sick kids lost benefits when they needed them the most.
Find out if your family is eligible for a plan by visiting the virtual health insurance marketplace at HealthCare.gov. This government service and its website make it easy to apply for insurance and learn which programs are available in your area. By just filling out one application form, the marketplace allows you to compare and contrast the benefits of each plan, as well as compare out-of-pocket expenses like co-pays and deductibles for care.
If your child is lacking health care services, there's a good chance that he or she will qualify under the current health care rules. Visit the virtual health insurance marketplace and see what health care benefits may be available to your family.
To have coverage by January 1, 2014, it's important to enroll in a plan by December 15, 2013. Enrolling after that may mean your coverage won't start until February 1, 2014, or later.