Last year it was a political hot potato and no doubt, with an election on the horizon, it’ll grab a few headlines again, but in the meanwhile the controversial health reforms program, under the Affordable Care Act, continues to move forward in 2012. Although many of the changes don’t take effect until 2014, it’s worth taking stock of current and upcoming changes in your entitlements. These include:
- Young people up to age 26 can now remain on their parents’ health insurance. Some 2.5 million have so far opted to do so.
- En route to closing the “donut hole” prescription coverage gap for Medicare recipients, seniors now qualify for a 50% discount on Part D brand-name drugs when they reach the gap.
- The Independent Payment Advisory Board has been established and, from next year, will be able to intervene if Medicare costs rise too much.
- States are now allowed to offer home-based services to disabled people through Medicaid instead of institutional care in nursing homes.
- From the start of this year, new rules encourage physicians to set up “Accountable Care Organizations” by working together to improve the standards of care and reduce costs.
- From March 1, federal health care programs have to collect racial, ethnic and language data about patients to identify inequality of treatment.
- From October, health records will have to be stored electronically – with new rules in place to make sure they’re secure and confidential.
- Also from October, hospitals will have to publicly report on performance for a range of treatments, and reveal comments from patients.
The official Government site has also launched an easy-to-use action page to help individuals identify which public, private and community programs meet their needs. Check it out at