Many members of the incoming Republican Congress told voters they'd work to repeal the landmark health care reform. But as 2010 comes to a close, it's worth noting the substantial strides the Affordable Care Act has already achieved in making health care more accessible, and those coming in 2011. Repealing the act, which won't take full effect until 2014, would mean reversing these improvements.
Already in effect:
Patient's Bill of Rights: Insurance companies are barred from putting vulnerable clients at risk of not having coverage when it's needed. Children can no longer be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Insurers can't drop a client who gets sick or files a claim by searching for any mistake on the customer's insurance application. And lifetime caps on benefits have been eliminated, protecting people with chronic conditions.
Young Adults Coverage: Parents can now keep their children on their insurance policy until age 26.
High-Risk Insurance Coverage: Policies are now available for people with pre-existing conditions looking for an individual policy, though their prices can still be quite prohibitive.
Tax Credits: Small businesses that provide insurance for their workers can obtain a tax credit worth up to 35 percent of their contribution to the coverage.
Effective Jan. 1:
Medicare Extras: Medicare recipients can obtain an annual physical at no out-of-pocket cost. Also, Part D participants who hit the so-called doughnut hole receive a discount of 50 percent on the cost of brand-name prescription drugs.
Premium Value: Insurers are required to spend at least 80 percent of every premium dollar on health care and quality improvements, as opposed to high executive salaries, administration and marketing.
Primary Care Boost: Doctors will paid 10 percent more for primary care services, making Medicare patients more attractive to family practitioners.