Local News

Patient provisions of health reform law kick in

Posted September 22, 2010 4:13 p.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2010 6:34 p.m. EDT

— Six months after President Barack Obama signed a package of health care reforms into law, several of the provisions take effect Thursday.

Some aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act won't kick in until 2014, but various provisions aimed at boosting patients rights are effective with all new insurance plans as of Thursday. For people who get their health coverage through work, the changes will take effect when their new plans start on Jan. 1.

The changes include the following:

  • Free preventive services, meaning things like cholesterol tests, flu shots and mammograms will no longer require a co-payment or deductible.
  • College graduates can remain on their parents' health plans or re-enroll up to age 26, at no extra cost to the parents. They even qualify if they have jobs, as long as their employers don't offer coverage.
  • No more lifetime caps on payments for medications or hospital stays for people with chronic illnesses or who were injured in a serious accident.
  • Insurance companies cannot drop coverage when someone suddenly gets sick or is diagnosed with a disease. In the past, insurers could search for a technical mistake on a customer's application and then deny payment based on that mistake after the customer became ill.
  • Insurers can no longer deny coverage to children based on a pre-existing health condition.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials met with state insurance commissioners Wednesday, including North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, to discuss ways to strengthen oversight of insurance premiums and enforcing patient protections included in the new law.