Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care Reform is a Reality. Um ... Now What?

A historic, massive health care overhaul was passed into law this week. That sounds great and all, but after a House bill, a Senate bill, a presidential proposal, a Republic counter-proposal, and a year of bickering, who can really keep track of just what exactly the new law really means? And what impact will it have on teens? Here are a few of the elements of the new legislation that will affect you. (Statistics and facts are from the official white house website.)

1. Insurance companies will be required to cover you on your parents' insurance until you're 26. So if you don't find a job right out of high school or college, you can still be covered. Yay! And you really do need it, even if you're healthy - anybody can find themselves in dire need of medical attention after a ninja pirate zombie attack/unexpected illness/bus accident.

2. Your parents don't have insurance? The new law will help over 95% of Americans get coverage by 2014. Insurance companies will be required to charge premiums that are tied to the actual costs of medical care in your area, and quit just making up insanely high numbers. Also, they have to provide a decent quality of coverage, and they can't toss you out on your butt if you have the gall to actually get sick. Still can't pay? The government will help all but the wealthiest families pay their premiums.

3. Pre-existing condition? No worries. Maybe you've already been denied coverage on your own or your parents policy because of a chronic condition like asthma or some pesky recurring sports injury. In 2014, that will be illegal. Everybody can get the same coverage for a fair rate. Because insurance is supposed to, you know, insure sick people. What a thought.

4. Everybody will be required to have health insurance. This is called the individual mandate, and it's very controversial. Being forced to buy insurance if you don't get it through a relative or job sounds scary, but it's also what makes healthcare affordable and available to everybody. (Read an MSNBC article about how the individual mandate works here.) If you or your parents are low on income, the government will help you pay.

This is an introduction to the big issues directly affecting teens, but there are lots of other provisions in the law. Want to learn more? Check out or - or ask your friendly neighborhood librarian to help you find the facts!

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