How to Take Advantage of Health Care Reform

By the Editors of Men’s Health

Much of the new health-care reform bill will take effect in stages between now and 2015, but many Americans still don’t understand what the changes are, according to a summer poll by Harris Interactive. Whatever your politics, it’s worth knowing what will happen–so you can take advantage.

You get free stuff

So there’s the flu shot… and cholesterol test… and, damn, annual checks add up. But now you can score preventive services–like costly vaccines, colon-cancer screenings, and diabetes tests–for free. New plans have to cover all of certain preventive measures. (“New” means a plan you sign up for after September 22; existing plans are exempt, but there are new limits on how much your costs can rise from now on.) See healthcare.gov for a list of gratis care options, and then stop making excuses and go see your doctor.

Is Obama’s health care reform plan good for you?

You can’t be dropped

“Applying for health insurance on your own is really, really complicated,” says David Nather, author of The New Health Care System. “Nobody can remember every little thing they need to report.” Old loopholes let insurers use tiny glitches, like forgetting to report a blood-pressure spike, as grounds for dropped coverage. But now, as long as you pay your premiums, it’s illegal for insurers to drop you if you become suddenly, expensively sick. If you think you’ve been dumped unfairly, you can appeal–and actually win.

You can stay on Mom and Dad’s plan

Who knew the feds would make it easier to mooch off your parents? Now you can live away from the folks and even be married (as long as you’re under 26) and still be on their health-care plan. “As long as your employer doesn’t offer coverage, you’re eligible,” says U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. So if you were recently shown a pink slip or you work for an employer who doesn’t offer health coverage, re-enroll on your parents’ plan. It should save you a bundle.

5 Ways to disease-proof your body.

You won’t be slapped with a major bill

Plans that maxed out at a certain dollar amount ($1 million, say) were fine for the fit and healthy, but they could destroy people with catastrophic injuries or chronic illnesses. New and renewed plans can no longer carry maximum limits on essential benefits like hospital stays, and starting in 2014, they won’t carry annual dollar limits either. “Some insurers said, ‘We’ll cover up to 30 days in the hospital, but only after the first day.’ Of course, all the major expenses occur in the first day,” Nather says. “This moves us away from plans with holes so enormous you could drive a truck through them.”

How not to get sick in the hospital.

What Else Is Coming

NOW

A 10 percent tax on tanning salons went into effect this summer. One more reason to avoid this skin-cancer-causing habit.

2011

Chain restaurants and vending machines must clearly list complete calorie counts for their foods. (Chains must provide more nutrition stats if you ask.)

2014

Insurers will have to cover everyone, regardless of preexisting conditions. Also, special tax credits–up to half off their share of health-insurance premiums–will be available to qualifying businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

2016

If you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to pay $700 or 2.5 percent of your household income, whichever’s higher.

Related Links:
5 Costly Fibs We Tell Our Doctor
15 Medical Tests Every Woman Should Have
10 Common Medication Mistakes That Can Kill

69 comments

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogersabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogersabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing.

Tim Cheung
Tim C.5 years ago

tks

K s Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Annemarie W.
Annemarie L.6 years ago

Thanks!

Lika S.
Lika S.6 years ago

Well, I'm still trying to figure out when my doctor will either help me get cured or put me on disability for my back, which is progressively getting worse. I've been to a ton of doctors including specialists for the last 10+ years to no avail, because x-rays show nothing.

Even though I drink a lot of water, cut out soda, switched to brown rice instead of white, eat whole grain bread, no butter, sparingly use olive oil, get low fat meats, added more veggies, added a walking regimen (when my back isn't siezing up on me), and yet I still can't lose weight, my blood sugar numbers are whacky, even on Metformin, etc...

Yet when I get hooked up to an IV, I lose 10# in 2 days, my back feels better, and when adding liquid antibiotic, I'm pain free for the next 6 weeks after I go home, and no one can figure out why. Seriously, it's crazy. After I had my 2 kids and after my reduction surgery, I lost weight from IV fluids and even after antagonizing labor for 22.5 and 18 hours respectively, the IV fluids flushed out enough to make my back feel better for a few days, with low pain for another 3 weeks or so. After the surgery, with the antibiotic, I was actually pain free for almost 6 weeks.

I just hope this new reform will help me get diagnoses so I can actually get well enough to work more. I'm killing myself right now to go do my home care job, which aggravates the pain, but it's the only job I have to put a roof over my son's head.

Lydia M.
Lydia Mortensen6 years ago

Olena K., I am hoping you have a full recovery from your accident. But you won't have to worry about your small fixed income having to cover a $700 fine for not having insurance. There will be funds set aside for low income people to buy insurance with.
And you really need insurance to protect your assets for your future. Over half of bankruptcies today were for medical bills, even amongst those with insurance because the policies pay out poorly, a fact you discover when you need it. (Some insurance companies are experts at deceiving with fine print in legal jargon!)
I really hate that insurance industry lobbyists and some of the politicians that take their money feel free to lie about what is actually in the health care reform bill.
They have good people, like yourself, believing it is a bad thing, when in reality the health care reform bill will help you tremendously.

Lydia M.
Lydia Mortensen6 years ago

Jeannie G. there are many falsehoods about the health care reform bill in your comment. I hope you will look up factcheck.org or some other group not influenced by insurance lobbyist money.
There is no one government insurance we all have to buy. We will simply have better consumer protections, there will be ways to compare policies to get the best for your money and premiums will be controlled because insurance companies will have to pay 80% of their premiums out as actual customer benefits or rebate the balance back to us.
The problem of not enough doctors will balance out. The law of supply and demand and the fact that many doctors I know retired early because of their hassles dealing with greedy insurance companies. They will come back now that things have been simplified and the patients and doctors will choose treatments, not the insurance companies!

Lydia M.
Lydia Mortensen6 years ago

Olena K., someone lied to you. There is no tax on real estate transactions. Only any PROFIT you made after expenses are subtracted, as well as your investment income of any kind has a new Medicare tax but ONLY that part of your income over $250,000 for an individual and over $500,000 for a couple the year of the sale. So only the amount of money OVER those thresholds has the additional 3.8% Medicare tax. So if you sold a house for $300,000, made a profit of $100,000 on it but your income was under $500,000 for a couple, there is NO extra tax. And say your income totalled $600,000 that year, the extra Medicare tax would amount to $3,800.
If I was in that income bracket, I don't think the extra $3,800 would affect my lifestyle but the extra money will help my fellow citizens on Medicare!
Don't believe the lies spread by the insurance lobbyists, go to a factcheck.org or other non-partisan, non-industry site to get the truth!
The health care reform bill makes sense!

Lydia M.
Lydia Mortensen6 years ago

Rachel H., there are many important parts of this bill that will lower premiums, but in my mind the most important one starts now.
Insurers will have to spend 80% of the premiums they take in on actual health benefits for customers. They are still left with a very healthy 20% for overhead, ceo pay and profits. By comparison, Medicare spends around 4% on overhead, the other 96% is on patient care!
And if the insurance companies don't spend 80% they have to rebate the balance back to their customers.
The fact that these companies are complaining about these percentages is telling as to how much of our money wasn't being spent on patient care! That's why they are spending millions to get politicians who will repeal it elected this November.
I could go on and on, but this health care reform bill has so many protections for consumers, it will change lives for the better.
Don't believe the hype the insurance company lobbyists are spreading!