No More Lifetime Limits: Real Life Effects of the Health Care Law
written by Kathy Mitchell
A million dollars is still a lot of money, until we get seriously ill.
Three year old Gwendolyn, of Santa Barbara, California, was born with spinal muscular atrophy. Covered under her father’s health insurance plan, she has been getting excellent care but the astronomical bills were quickly approaching his lifetime coverage limit. After that, her father didn’t know how he would keep the treatments going or avoid bankruptcy.
The new federal health insurance law, one year into its incremental implementation, eliminated lifetime limits for most health plans and has started to phase out annual coverage limits as well.
But you have to watch the fine print. While lifetime limits have been largely eliminated, the new right to a health plan that doesn’t cut off your treatment at an arbitrary dollar amount each year (the annual limit) doesn’t apply to what are called “grandfathered” plans.
Grandfathered plans are those that existed when the health-care reform law was signed on March 23, 2010, and that have not made significant reductions in benefits which would cause them to lose that status. There are still a lot of grandfathered plans on the market. You may be in one.
Americans made it clear during the extensive national debate about the new health law that they wanted the ability to keep the plan they have if they like it. In order to preserve our existing system of employer and private plans, while phasing in new consumer protections to help those most in need, the law exempted plans from certain reforms unless they were amended to reduce coverage.
There are lots of new benefits and new rights, and a few things like this you need to know to get the most out of the new health law.
Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, has produced a new guide to the health law on the occasion of its one year anniversary. Read the Guide online, or download the pdf. If you like it, order a few to give to friends and family so they can get beyond the hype and find out exactly what the new law can (and can’t) do for them.
Take Action: Know the facts about the new health care law.
photo courtesy of Bill and Victoria Strong