Health reform has passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, there are differences between the Senate version of the bill and the House version of the bill. Both chambers will elect members to convene a conference to reconcile differences between the two versions of the bill. The new version of the bill that emerges from the conference must then be voted on again by each chamber. If the bill is approved by both chambers, the president may sign the final version turning it into law.
To answer how the bill will affect Floridians, the government web site, www.healthreform.gov has listed several elements from both bills that benefit individuals and families in Florida, such as:
- Insurance companies will no longer be able to place lifetime limits on the coverage they provide, use of annual limits will be restricted, and they will not be able to arbitrarily drop coverage.
- 10 percent of people in Florida have diabetes, and 28 percent have high blood pressure – two conditions that insurance companies could use as a reason to deny health insurance coverage. Reform will establish a high-risk pool to enable people who cannot get insurance today to find an affordable health plan.
- Roughly 565,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Florida hit the “doughnut hole,” or gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage that can cost some seniors an average of $4,080 per year. Reform legislation will provide a 50 percent discount for brand-name drugs in this coverage gap.
- Without reform, individuals and families in Florida will spend increasing amounts of money out-of-pocket to cover premiums, deductibles, and co-payments, from $19.4 billion today to up to $35.4 billion in 2019. Through health insurance reform, 2.5 million Florida residents could be eligible for premium credits to ease the burden of these high costs.
- Health insurance reform will create a new voluntary long-term care services insurance program, which will provide a cash benefit to help seniors and people with disabilities obtain services and supports that will enable them to remain in their homes and communities.
Below is a message about health reform from the Secretary of Health & Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.