I wrote two weeks ago that no one expected the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. I certainly didn’t expect the decision. It will be some time before we can get a clear look at how well the law works and what sort of difficulties will be encountered first implementing and then enforcing the law. After it was clear the act and the mandate stood, the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, and American Academy of Pediatrics released statements in support of the bill. In general, I think the medical community is in agreement that the law offers concrete solutions to address many pressing health care concerns.
The law isn’t perfect. I hope that it will serve as a starting point, providing the necessary framework for the future. Here are a few things the law does today, and will start to do in the next few years.
- People with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health care. There is only so much we can control about our health. In 2014, people with pre-existing conditions, such as a heart defect, Type I diabetes, or cancer survivors will no longer be denied coverage.
- Gender rating will be eliminated. According to Forbes, “… in states that haven’t banned the practice, over 90% of the best selling plans charge women more than men, even though only 3% of them cover maternity services. In fact, even when maternity care is excluded, almost a third of plans charge women at least 30% more than men for the same coverage.” Women will also benefit from new regulations that make maternity care a required coverage area and mandate that nursing mothers are given breaks and a private place to express breast milk at places of employment with more than 50 people.
- The law dispenses with lifetime limits. If you’ve paid for health insurance, can’t stop covering you because they decide you’ve used too much already.
- Any new health plan must provide preventative care (such as a prostate exam, mammogram, or colonoscopy) without requiring a co-pay or charge.
Any major legislation like this will have opposition. There’s a lot of concern about what will happen next, and campaign promises to work to repeal the entire act. Insurance companies are likely to suffer since several provisions of the Act restrict their ability to drive profits. Whoever takes the presidency and control of Congress should sort out kinks and find ways to make the existing law better. This is just the beginning of a long road.