By Edna Kane-Williams
(Trice Edney Wire) – We’ve heard about it in bits and pieces over the past three years – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it will benefit all Americans. But, the specific details can be confusing, even overwhelming. At AARP, we are here to untangle the jargon and empower you with the answers and information you are seeking for yourself and for your family.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the ACA will provide 6.8 million uninsured African-Americans an opportunity to get affordable health insurance coverage. The bottom line is if you are not insured, low cost or free plans will soon be available. If you already have insurance, you may be able to find an even more affordable plan.
Here is what has already happened through the ACA:
•3.1 million young adults have gained coverage through their parents’ health insurance plans. This includes more than 500,000 young African-American adults between ages 19 and 25, according to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
•6.3 million seniors are paying less for prescription drugs. And if you have Medicare Part D, and you reach the coverage gap or “doughnut hole” in 2013, you will get more than a 50 percent discount on brand name prescription drugs and more than a 20 percent discount on generic drugs while in the coverage gap. The discounts will continue until 2020 when the gap will end.
•105 million Americans are paying less for preventative care and no longer face limits on lifetime coverage, according to HHS. The 4.5 million elderly and disabled African-Americans who receive health coverage from Medicare also have access to many preventive services with no cost-sharing, including annual wellness visits with personalized prevention plans, diabetes and colorectal cancer screening, bone mass measurement and mammograms, according to HHS.
•17 million children with pre-existing conditions are no longer denied coverage or charged extra. The issue of pre-existing conditions has been a consistent barrier to obtaining insurance. Under the ACA, beginning in 2014, insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage, even if you have a pre-existing condition like asthma, diabetes, high-blood pressure or even cancer. And if you or a family member gets sick or injured, insurance companies can’t cut off your coverage or cancel your plan.
•Because African-Americans suffer from diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes at higher levels than America’s general population, the ACA will not only provide greater access to affordable quality health care, but will also “invest in prevention and wellness, and give individuals and families more control over their care,” according to HHS.
The obvious question is how do you get started with the benefits? On October 1, 2013, a recently created website, HeathCare.gov, will present what is called the Health Insurance Marketplace. The website will present competing insurance agencies and help guide health care seekers – individuals, families and small businesses – to the best decisions on which plan to choose or switch over to.
For more information about the Affordable Care Act and how the law applies to you, visit AARP’s HealthLawAnswers.org. Our goal is to make it plain.
Edna Kane-Williams is vice-president of Multicultural Engagement at AARP.