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New controversial health care bills signed into law

This week, President Obama signed two pieces of legislation into law–The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010– that will make sweeping reforms to health care in the United States. These bills are expected to provide health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans currently uninsured. The Congressional Budget Office projects that this legislation will cut the national deficit by $132 billion over the next 10 years. But the cost to implement these changes is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $940 billion.

Some key features include:

  • Most Americans will be required to have health insurance by 2014, or face a fine (with some exceptions)
  • A bar against insurers from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, health status, and gender
  • The creation of health insurance exchanges where individuals and small businesses can buy health insurance
  • Offers of premium tax credits and cost-sharing assistance to low and middle income individuals
  • Increasing Medicaid eligibility to individuals with incomes at or below 133% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Filling the Medicare Part D perscription drug donut hole by offering beneficiaries who fall into that hole a $250 rebate plus phased-in discounts on drugs purchases within the “hole”
  • Increasing the tax rate for Medicare Part A for individuals earning over $200,000 and married couples with joing income exceeding $250,000; and applies the increased tax to some unearned income

Many states are either contemplating filing law suits or have in fact initiated law suits questioning the constitutionality of some of the provisions of these bills. Republican members of both the Senate and House continue to raise contentions on many fronts as well. The next few months should prove very interesting.

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