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Key health law changes kick in today

Nearly $124 million in health insurance premium rebates have gone out to Florida employers and consumers, thanks to the federal health care law. Wednesday, the deadline for those checks to be sent, also marked another milestone in the Affordable Care Act: Most employers must include contraceptive and other women's health services without copays in the insurance plans they offer workers.

The refunds are coming from insurers that failed to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on health care. For insurers covering large employers, the threshold is 85 percent. All told, 1.25 million Floridians are covered by plans that had to issue refunds.

Because most insured people are covered through their employers, they may not see checks themselves. The refunds will go to employers, who may opt to put the money toward future plan costs. Most people getting refunds already have received letters informing them of that fact.

In the individual market, the biggest payout is from Golden Rule Insurance Co. with $21.9 million. In the small and large group markets, the big payers are Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida ($27 million) and United HealthCare Insurance Company ($33 million).

According to federal estimates, about 47 million women are enrolled in health plans affected by the new rules governing preventive care. The coverage expansion takes effect as health plans are renewed, which for many won't be until Jan. 1.

Contraception was among the most controversial provisions in the Affordable Care Act after the Catholic Church and others protested that the law's religious exemptions were not broad enough.

The new requirement will mean more affordable access to services that go well beyond contraception, said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"All new insurance plans will be required to cover additional services and tests for women, with no out-of-pocket costs including domestic violence screenings, FDA-approved contraception, breast feeding counseling and supplies, and a well woman visit, where she can sit down and talk with her health care provider," she said this week.

Key health law changes kick in today 08/01/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 11:08pm]

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