Questions about health-care reform law answered in comprehensive Courier-Journal report

Reporter Laura Ungar has put together an excellent primer in The Courier-Journal that appears to answer all the key questions people have about the federal health-care reform law. Reporters would do well to refer to Ungar’s report when writing about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The piece breaks down how the law will affect adults, young people, senior citizens and business owners. “Experts agree the changes will be sweeping,” Ungar reports.

Ungar asks questions like:
What is the individual mandate? It means everyone must have health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine. By 2016, the penalty will increase to $695 for individuals and $2,085 for families or 2.5 percent of their income.

Will I become eligible for Medicaid under the new law? That’s not yet clear because Kentucky hasn’t decided whether or not to expand the program. If it does choose to expand, people who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify, which means individuals who earn up to $15,415 or a family of four that earns up to $31,809.

Are there any new taxes under the law? Yes. The individual mandate can be interpreted as a tax. Also people who earn more than $200,000 and married couples who earn $250,000 combined will pay a payroll tax of 2.35 percent, up from 1.45 percent.

How will I find health insurance? A state health insurance exchange will be set up by 2014 so people who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level — an annual income of about $90,000 for a family of four —can buy health insurance.

How can young people stay on their parents’ health insurance plan? They are eligible under the new law to stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26. So far, 35,600 young adults in Kentucky have gotten coverage this way.

What if my young child gets married or pregnant? The child will be covered and so would the pregnancy if the parents’ plan allows for that. The plan doesn’t have to cover the baby, however.

Will my premiums go up if I get insurance through my job? That’s still unclear. “There are provisions that could push up premiums slightly, such as the elimination of lifetime caps on coverage, but there are also provisions that could push them down, such as the influx of many more healthy young people,” Ungar reports.

How does the law affect Medicare coverage? Benefits have not changed, but there will no longer be co-pays for preventive services like mammograms and prostate-cancer screenings, “a provision that has affected more than 1.2 million seniors in Kentucky,” Ungar reports.

The report is worth reading in its entirety and could be used as a regular reference about the law. (Read more)

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