The 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act changed the landscape of American healthcare. On a large scale, it addressed longstanding systemic concerns while also attempting to bring down costs. Nearly everyone has an opinion on the bill, yet few people really understand some of the significant changes that it ushered in. Since 2010, much of the media coverage of the bill and the associated outcry has been reduced to 140 character summaries and soundbites. Before forming an opinion, take time to learn about some of the things the bill did.
Young Adult Coverage: Before the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies could remove enrolled children when they turned 19. Some insurance plans allowed for enrolled children to stay on the insurance plan while they were enrolled as a full time student. Under the Affordable Care Act, children can remain on a parent’s insurance plan until they turn 26.
Pre-existing Conditions: Prior to the Affordable Care Act, health insurers could deny (or charge more for) coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Often this meant that people with chronic health conditions, like cancer, had significant trouble getting new health insurance coverage. Some insurers even classified pregnancy as a pre-existing medical condition and would refuse to pay for related care. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers can no longer charge more for or deny coverage for pre-existing health conditions.
Annual and Lifetime Limits: Health insurance plans used to be able to set annual and lifetime limits for coverage as long as someone was enrolled in the plan. If a participant exceeded the limit, they would be responsible for all charges. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans can no longer place limits on medically necessary care. Limits on “non-essential” health benefits are still allowed.
Plain Language Benefits Information: Details about health insurance plans used to be hidden behind small fonts and legal language. For many people, it was tough to understand and even tougher to compare plans side-by-side. The Affordable Care Act requires that health insurers provide participants with an easy-to-understand summary. This mandatory standardization now allows people to easily compare the benefits and costs of medical plans.
Without realizing it, all Americans already know someone who has benefited from these four changes made by the Affordable Care Act. Teenagers can now keep health insurance until age 26. People with chronic conditions no longer fear being denied health insurance—or the associated extra costs of medically necessary treatment that isn’t covered. Annual and lifetime limits are gone. Insurances now explain their benefits and costs in an easily understandable format. The Affordable Care Act has changed the American healthcare system in ways that have already benefited all Americans, regardless of political opinion.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Lifetime & Annual Limits.” December 5, 2014. (http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/about-the-law/benefit-limits/index.html)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Plain Language Benefits Information.” September 8, 2014. (http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/about-the-law/plain-language-benefits-information/index.html)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Pre-Existing Conditions.” November 18, 2014. (http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/about-the-law/pre-existing-conditions/index.html)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Young Adult Coverage.” March 12, 2013 (http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/about-the-law/young-adult-coverage/index.html)