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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"How will health care reform affect me?"

As health care reform legislation continues to make its way through Congress, many Americans are wondering how the proposals will affect them personally. According to an informative series of articles from ProPublica, here's what health care reform means for different groups:

For those already insured:
• They would not be required to change their health insurance plan.
• If their current plan fails to meet minimum coverage standards or is considered a "Cadillac" plan, they could be forced to pay a tax penalty if they want to keep it.
• Their health insurance costs probably wouldn’t change much. (Premiums could increase because of pressures to provide a comprehensive benefits package and caps on deductibles, or could decrease because reducing the number of uninsured people could reduce the costs borne by the system.)
• They may be concerned about their employers dropping health insurance coverage and instead choosing to pay the government fines, which may be cheaper.
• They could face a 5.4 percent surcharge if their adjusted gross income is more than $500,000 for singles and $1 million for joint filers.

For the uninsured:
• They may have expanded coverage options for their children under Medicaid if they meet income requirements.
• If they have sufficient income, they would be able to purchase private health insurance from the exchange.
• If they have low income, they would qualify for a subsidy to help buy insurance through the exchange.
• If they remain uninsured, they will have to pay a tax penalty (e.g., $750 per person per year).

For healthy 20-somethings:
• They will be required to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
• They will be allowed to stay on their parents' insurance longer (until age 26 in the Senate bill or 27 in the House bill).
• If they meet certain income requirements, they will be eligible for Medicaid coverage, which currently ends at age 19 and is not available in most states for young adults without a child or a disability.
• They will be able to purchase health insurance through an exchange and, depending on their income level, may qualify for government subsidies.

To read how the proposals will affect other groups – Medicare beneficiaries, Medicaid recipients, the underinsured and small businesses – read ProPublica's series online.

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