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Government says health insurance reform working

By Maryalene LaPonsie on March 21st, 2012

In the face of public opposition to health reform legislation and a looming Supreme Court case reviewing the law's constitutionality, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to promote the law's positive benefits.

The department has released a string of press releases touting how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expanding access to services and encouraging low-cost health insurance.

Expanding health insurance coverage

According to the HHS, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has eliminated lifetime caps on health insurance coverage for 105 million Americans.

"For years, Americans with lifetime caps imposed on their health insurance benefits have had to live with the fear that if an illness or accident happened, they could max out their health coverage when they needed it the most," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press statement. "Now, because of the health care law, they no longer have to live in fear of that happening."

In addition, the department estimates more than 45 million women enrolled in private health insurance plans or Medicare will have access to free preventive services by 2014.

Currently, women are now eligible to receive the following services without having to meet any cost-sharing requirements such as co-pays or co-insurance:

  • Mammograms
  • Cervical cancer screenings
  • Flu and pneumonia shots
  • Prenatal care
  • Well-baby and well-child visits

In August 2012, additional free preventive services are scheduled to go into effect. These include well-women visits, gestational diabetes screenings, domestic violence screenings and breastfeeding supplies. By 2014, all women covered by individual health insurance plans are expected to gain maternity coverage.

Cost savings from health reform

In addition to expanding services, the HHS says the health reform law has resulted in significant consumer savings. The department estimates 5.1 million Medicare beneficiaries have saved more than $3.2 billion in prescription drug costs in the last two years.

Seniors who hit the coverage gap -- also known as the "donut hole" -- in their prescription drug coverage in 2010 received a $250 rebate check from the government in 2011. In addition, those paying out of pocket for prescriptions received a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in 2011. At the start of 2012, that discount was joined with a 14 percent discount for generic medications.

Finally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans spend at least 80 to 85 cents of each premium dollar on direct health care expenses or return the excess premiums to policyholders.

While 18 states had requested an adjustment to this requirement, the HHS announced its decision to deny some of those requests and alter others. As a result, consumers can expect to receive $323 million more in health insurance premium rebates than what would have been issued had the adjustments been granted as requested.

 

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