President Barack Obama signed landmark healthcare reform legislation into law yesterday. The bill, which will eventually extend healthcare coverage to 32 million uninsured, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives late Sunday night. But what does this mean for you? Some of the major impacts may include:
Increased Access to Treatment and Follow-Up Care
Starting this year:
- Your insurance company will not be able to cancel your policy or charge you more because of your gender or a breast cancer diagnosis.
- If you have insurance, your plan will be prevented from putting a lifetime cap on your coverage. A lifetime cap is the dollar limit your insurance plan will pay in benefits over your lifetime. Restrictions will also be placed on annual caps.
- If you are young and have breast cancer with no access to employer coverage of your own, you will be able to remain on your parents’ health insurance plan until you turn 26.
Starting in 2014:
- If you are uninsured or lose or change your job, you may be eligible to get the cost of treatment and follow-up care covered through expanded state Medicaid programs or through purchasing affordable insurance from subsidized, state-based insurance marketplaces called "exchanges."
- Unless you have very low income, you will be required to carry health insurance or else pay a fine.
Ensuring Coverage Despite Pre-Existing Conditions
Starting this year:
- If you have been uninsured for at least six months, coverage with subsidized premiums, or monthly fees paid to your insurance company to keep coverage, will be available through high-risk insurance pools in your state.
Starting in 2014:
- Insurers will no longer to be able to refuse insurance or charge you more because of a breast cancer diagnosis.
Changes to Medicare
- If you have Medicare part D, you will get more help paying for prescription medicines. The "donut hole," or gap in coverage of prescription medicines, will be gradually closed by 2020. If you already reached the "donut hole" this year, you will get a $250 rebate. Next year, you will get a discount on brand-name medicines (initially 50 percent).
- Preventive care such as breast cancer screenings will be free of co-payments or deductibles.
Increased Quality and Quantity of Life for Young Women
With passage of the health reform package, the Breast Health Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act, or EARLY Act, has also become law. The EARLY Act creates an education and outreach campaign highlighting the breast cancer risks facing young women and empowering them with the tools they need to fight the disease.
The EARLY Act creates:
- A public health campaign to teach young women that breast cancer can and does occur in young women and to help them establish good breast health habits to follow as they mature
- An education campaign for healthcare providers to increase awareness that breast cancer occurs in young women and to improve their knowledge of the risk factors for breast cancer in young women
- Support services for young women with breast cancer
While many significant things will happen slowly over several years, including the expansion of coverage to more than 30 million people, a number of changes will take place quickly and make a difference for those who have the greatest need.
However, it’s important to remember that changes to the bill could still take place. Most members of the House did not support the U.S. Senate’s version of the comprehensive bill, so the Senate must work on a smaller bill of "fixes" using a process called reconciliation. Because the House and Senate must pass the same bills, any changes made to the reconciliation bill could send it back to the House for another vote before Easter.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer encourages you to make your voice heard. Contact your senators by telephone or e-mail and let them know how you feel. If you’re not sure who represents you, visit the Web sites of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives .
The healthcare system is constantly changing. We will keep you informed through our educational programs, newsletters and our Web site, lbbc.org. You can also get practical advice on managing the visible and hidden costs of breast cancer treatment by pre-ordering a copy of our Guide to Understanding Financial Concerns.
Read the latest version of H.R. 4872, the Reconciliation Act of 2010, on the Web site of the Library of Congress.