WASHINGTON – It can be difficult to decipher the information found in the thousands of pages in the Affordable Health Care for America Act,especially with nearly $200 million worth of ads bombarding Americans.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said she would be surprised if the American people did not have questions about the new law,given how complex the health-care system already is.
Sebelius spoke about how the health-care reform law will increase health security at a National Press Club luncheon Tuesday in an effort outline the truth about new regulations.
“The law President Obama signed will give Americans more control over their health care,” Sebelius said.
It is important for people to realize that if individuals or families like their current doctors or health plans,they can keep them,she said. Health-care reform is building on the current health-care system,not destroying it.
She listed three key changes:
- The reform makes sure every American who has a health insurance policy has security by creating a series of “common-sense rules” that ensure insurance companies treat consumers fairly
- It makes insurance more affordable for millions of Americans by creating a new insurance marketplace.
- It brings down costs in the “broadest cost-cutting package ever.”
New regulations will be put in place this year,Sebelius said. However,it will be 2014 before everything in the health-care reform law goes into effect.
“The law implements reform quickly but not all at once,” she said. “Instead,they'll fit together like puzzle pieces.”
The following provisions go into effect this year:
- Senior citizens who have hit the “doughnut hole” or the Medicare prescription drug gap will get a $250 rebate check between June 15 and the end of the year.
- Small-business owners will get a 35 percent tax credit on health premiums that will increase to 50 percent in 2014,according to HealthReform.gov.
- A new rule ends lifetime caps on health-insurance benefits.
- Health insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing to cover children with pre-existing conditions.
- A temporary program will be available for adults who are excluded from insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
- Young adults can stay on their parents' heath insurance until they turn 26.
The 2010 reforms build on significant improvements made to the health-care system in 2009,such as the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act and Recovery Act,Sebelius said.
Sebelius said she is not worried about lawsuits filed by several states seeking to overturn the law.
“I am confident the law is on solid constitutional grounds,” she said.
Sebelius said the new law is “incredibly state friendly.”
The law creates partnerships between the federal and state governments. For three years following 2014,the federal government will pay 100 percent of cost of expanding insurance,she said. After that,states pay more.
“There are some new costs in insurance expansion born by the states,” Sebelius said,adding they are balanced by benefits.
States will oversee the development of the insurance exchanges,regulatory oversight and consumer protection.
Sebelius promised the government will be transparent about the health care reform. Questions and concerns about the new law are welcome,and she encouraged all Americans to visit HealthReform.gov for more information and to submit inquiries.
“Ultimately this isn't about us. This is about the American people,” Sebelius said. “It's about giving Americans more choices,more security and more control.”