Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), today reiterated the importance of patient protections that will go into effect tomorrow, exactly six months after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Among other reforms, the law's "Patients' Bill of Rights" protections will prevent insurance companies from setting lifetime coverage limits, stop insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and allow young adults to remain on their parents' health plans until they turn twenty-six.
"We passed health care reform to put patients, not insurance company bureaucrats, in the driver's seat, and starting tomorrow those new patient protections go into effect," said Sen. John Kerry. "We should be celebrating the end of an era where insurance companies exploit loopholes to drop the sick or deny coverage to kids who need life-saving treatments. Unfortunately many insurance companies have decided to mark this anniversary by trying to duck these new protections, even ending their child-only policies entirely so they don't have to cover sick kids. Insurers in Massachusetts have continued to provide coverage to all people since we passed our landmark health reform in 2006, and there's no reason that insurers across the country can't live up to these same standards."
Beginning on September 23rd the Affordable Care Act's "Patients' Bill of Rights" protections will:
* prevent insurance companies from setting lifetime limits on the dollar amount of health benefits they cover;
* restrict the use of annual limits on coverage;
* stop insurance companies from denying coverage to children (and eventually all Americans) due to a pre-existing condition;
* prohibit insurers from retroactively canceling coverage based on an unintentional mistake on an application;
* allow young adults to remain on their parents' health plans until their 26th birthdays;
* require new private insurance plans to cover preventive services with no co-pays;
* allow patients to choose the primary care doctor and pediatrician from the plans' provider network and allows women to go directly to their OB-GYN without a referral;
* end bureaucratic hurdles to emergency services by prohibiting insurers from requiring prior approval before seeking emergency room care at a hospital outside of the plan's network.
In addition to these new protections, Massachusetts residents are already benefiting from other key provisions of the health reform law that have gone into effect in the past six months:
* Over 100,000 Massachusetts small businesses will receive a tax credit to help defray the cost of offering health insurance to their employees.
* The health reform law includes Sen. Kerry's provisions to create an Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. As of last month, 77 employers in Massachusetts have been accepted into the program which will make retiree health insurance coverage more stable and affordable.
* The new law takes immediate steps to close the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole that currently traps 86,657 seniors in Massachusetts. This year, seniors who fall into this coverage gap will receive a $250 rebate from the federal government to provide assistance with purchasing prescription drugs. Nearly 16,000 seniors in Massachusetts have already received their $250 tax free rebate. Next year, a drug discount program will begin and the doughnut hole will be completely closed by 2020.
* The Affordable Care Act dramatically increases federal funding for community health centers by providing $11 billion in funding over the next five years. This funding will help the 52 community health centers in Massachusetts that serve more than 760,000 state residents regardless of their ability to pay.