Healthcare has long been an important issue in the United States as it depends mostly on private insurance. It’s known as one of the most expensive, yet lowest quality programs as compared to other nations. In 2007, 15.3% of the population didn’t have health insurance. Of those Americans who have health insurance, the majority are covered by their employers or a family member, some purchase their own insurance, and the rest rely on government funded programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and services provided by the Veterans Health Administration.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, was signed into law by President Obama in 2010 and launched on October 1, 2013. The law seeks to improve the quality of health insurance and reduce healthcare costs for Americans in order to make health insurance more accessible across the nation. It’ll expand coverage and hold insurance companies accountable for increases in rates.
October 1st marked the opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace, which will provide a variety of plans to select from. These will all be required to cover certain essential benefits and preventive measures. Plans that existed before March 23, 2010, known as “grandfathered” plans, will not be required to do so. There are four tiers of coverage: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum which will be distinguished by what fraction of the expenses the insurance plan covers.
Among those benefits that are to be covered by all plans purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace are the following:
- Doctor’s/clinic visits
- Outpatient surgery
- Emergency services and hospital visits
- Mental health care and treatment
- Prescribed medication
- Mental and rehabilitation services
- Laboratory procedures
From January 1, 2014 onwards, the Affordable Care Act also requires that people with preexisting conditions cannot be denied insurance and must be covered and insurance plans aren’t allowed to limit payment for lifetime medical expenses. Marketplace plans are required to completely cover certain preventive services free of charge. These include:
- Diabetes screening
- Blood pressure/cholesterol tests
- HIV tests
- Depression screening for adults
Though there are still differing and skeptical views regarding the Affordable Care Act, the law will allow many Americans to purchase health insurance and have their basic healthcare needs covered for the first time. These changes could potentially revitalize and transform health insurance in the United States, leading to a stronger health care system for the nation.
Author: Apoorva Anupindi