Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may be a federal healthcare system overhaul, each state is experiencing it in its own way, and though Californians have already started seeing some differences since the act went into effect in March 2010, there will be a great deal more by the time it has been fully implemented in January 2014.
So far, Californian health care has seen a few important changes. These include:
• Ensuring that no new health insurance policies can include lifetime caps on benefits, so that individuals who are very sick do not face financial devastation as a result of their conditions.
• Allowing approximately 177,000 Californians between the ages of 19 and 26 to continue their coverage under their parents’ health insurance, instead of cutting them off at 19 or when they stopped being full-time students, as had previously been the rule.
• Making certain that children younger than 19 cannot be denied insurance as a result of a pre-existing illness or medical condition.
• Providing more than 7,000 Californians who have serious medical conditions with access to coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program. Without it, they would not be able to obtain coverage.
More changes are on their way, though, and Californians will be seeing them as they are implemented between now and 2014. They include:
• An expansion of the eligibility to Medi-Cal.
• The online availability of a state-wide health benefit exchange that will allow small businesses and individuals to compare insurance plans and enroll in the one that is best for their needs.
• The cessation of the practice of insurance companies of denying coverage as the result of a pre-existing medical condition.
• The requirement of large employers to offer health insurance to their employees (or face a possible penalty).
• The requirement of all Californians to obtain health coverage – whether individually, through a public program (such as Medi-Cal) or through an employer – or face a possible penalty.
• The creation of federal subsidies to make it easier for small businesses, families, and individuals to be able to afford health insurance.
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