US healthcare bill will provide immediate benefits

by on March 21, 2010 · 8 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Health, War and Peace

Editor: This report is based on a Reuters report from Mar 19.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a sweeping overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.

Here is what to expect if the bill becomes law:


  • Insurance companies will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated and annual limits are to be restricted.
  • Insurers will be barred from excluding children for coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until the age of 26. Many health plans currently drop dependents from coverage when they turn 19 or finish college.
  • Uninsured adults with a pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain health coverage through a new program that will expire once new insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014.
  • A temporary reinsurance program is created to help companies maintain health coverage for early retirees between the ages of 55 and 64. This also expires in 2014.
  • Medicare drug beneficiaries who fall into the “doughnut hole” coverage gap will get a $250 rebate. The bill eventually closes that gap which currently begins after $2,700 is spent on drugs. Coverage starts again after $6,154 is spent.
  • A tax credit becomes available for some small businesses to help provide coverage for workers.
  • A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps goes into effect on July 1.


  • Medicare provides 10 percent bonus payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons.
  • Medicare beneficiaries will be able to get a free annual wellness visit and personalized prevention plan service. New health plans will be required to cover preventive services with little or no cost to patients.
  • A new program under the Medicaid plan for the poor goes into effect in October that allows states to offer home and community based care for the disabled that might otherwise require institutional care.
  • Payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage services are frozen at 2010 levels. These payments are to be gradually reduced to bring them more in line with traditional Medicare.
  • Employers are required to disclose the value of health benefits on employees’ W-2 tax forms.
  • An annual fee is imposed on pharmaceutical companies according to market share. The fee does not apply to companies with sales of $5 million or less.


  • Physician payment reforms are implemented in Medicare to enhance primary care services and encourage doctors to form “accountable care organizations” to improve quality and efficiency of care.
  • An incentive program is established in Medicare for acute care hospitals to improve quality outcomes.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the government programs, begin tracking hospital readmission rates and puts in place financial incentives to reduce preventable readmissions.


  • A national pilot program is established for Medicare on payment bundling to encourage doctors, hospitals and other care providers to better coordinate patient care.
  • The threshold for claiming medical expenses on itemized tax returns is raised to 10 percent from 7.5 percent of income. The threshold remains at 7.5 percent for the elderly through 2016.
  • The Medicare payroll tax is raised to 2.35 percent from 1.45 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married couples with incomes over $250,000. The tax is imposed on some investment income for that income group.
  • A 2.9 percent excise tax in imposed on the sale of medical devices. Anything generally purchased at the retail level by the public is excluded from the tax.


  • State health insurance exchanges for small businesses and individuals open.
  • Most people will be required to obtain health insurance coverage or pay a fine if they don’t. Healthcare tax credits become available to help people with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty purchase coverage on the exchange.
  • Health plans no longer can exclude people from coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
  • Employers with 50 or more workers who do not offer coverage face a fine of $2,000 for each employee if any worker receives subsidized insurance on the exchange. The first 30 employees aren’t counted for the fine.
  • Health insurance companies begin paying a fee based on their market share.


  • Medicare creates a physician payment program aimed at rewarding quality of care rather than volume of services.


  • An excise tax on high cost employer-provided plans is imposed. The first $27,500 of a family plan and $10,200 for individual coverage is exempt from the tax. Higher levels are set for plans covering retirees and people in high risk professions. (Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by David Alexander and E

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar doug porter March 21, 2010 at 10:51 pm

it ain’t a perfect bill, IMHO, but after a hundred years of trying I’m happy that it passed.


avatar Margaret March 22, 2010 at 9:09 am

It isn’t perfect, but it’s a huge start. As someone whose husband has a pre-existing condition, Multiple Sclerosis, and whose COBRA will be running out in a year, I cannot begin to tell you the relief this bill has been for us and for many like us. My husband’s disease-altering medications alone cost $1200 per month and as the MS Society has stated on its website, forget getting coverage that will pay for the drugs or any coverage for that matter.

The biggest thing I have learned over the past three years (when our insurance nightmare began) is how little people know about how insurance works–and these usually are the same people who are most vocal about not changing the current system.
If you would have told me three years ago, that my husband’s disability carrier would do ANYTHING to deny his disability and not pay the claim, I would have stared in disbelief, especially in light of the fact he was to begin six months of chemotherapy. It is a corrupt and sick system and it’s why I got started in helping to fight for reform.

And health should not be about who is the best capitalist or whose parents are the best capitalists. It should be about building upon our collective health to make this a better nation.


avatar lane tobias March 22, 2010 at 9:10 am

thank you for the breakdown. ill echo doug – but this is quite an achievement all things considered.


avatar Abby March 22, 2010 at 10:40 am

I think it’s great for the changes it forces on the insurance companies! They have been allowed to take our money and give us nothing for too long.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start.


avatar PSD March 22, 2010 at 10:43 am

Ditto everyone else – it’s not perfect, but it’s something to build on. I just don’t know how I feel about imposing a fine to penalize people who can’t or don’t buy private insurance…


avatar Abby March 22, 2010 at 11:48 am

I agree, that is one of the big flaws in the bill. As if the people who don’t have coverage are just choosing not to, rather than because they can’t afford it.

I get coverage through my job, and it still costs me a bundle.


avatar JPinSD March 22, 2010 at 11:38 am

Great…just another way to get more money out of my pocket……..


avatar Wireless Mike March 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm

This is a good start. Now we need to pass a public option and remove the penalty. I still have some concerns about the implementation (the devil is in the details). But overall, this is a major step forward. We can continue to refine these reforms as long as we believe that healthcare is a right, not a privilege for a select few; and we don’t get too caught up in the free market frenzy.


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