Friday, September 24, 2010

Annual Check-Ups Covered, Among Other Things

This week, a few key pieces of health care reform legislation went into effect, including coverage for preventative care visits. This very concrete change will have a big effect on families, who often coordinate several yearly check-ups for family members. A check-up required for a child to attend school should not cost a family with insurance coverage $200 out of pocket.

Lifetime caps on what health insurance will pay have also been removed, providing more financial security for people with insurance who become seriously ill. Children with pre-existing conditions must be covered by group health care plans as well.

WebMD has a good video interview with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explaining the changes that went into effect on September 23, and promoting the consumer health care plan website.

These reforms have had some interesting consequences, though. A recent Fierce HealthPayer article pointed out that insurers such as Anthem Blue Cross, Humana, Aetna, Cigna, and UnitedHealthCare, for example, are trying to drop individual insurance plans for children in some parts of the country to avoid the expense of covering children with pre-existing conditions.

With more people getting and using health insurance under the new reforms, I was not surprised to read that the University of California at San Francisco approved funding for a new hospital complex this month. I wonder how many other hospital-building plans are going forward now that there will be more patients with insurance coverage to pay their bills. Will this new influx of patients (and payments) improve hospital care nationwide?

I've also heard rumblings about shortages of primary care doctors and nurses who will be needed to serve these new patients, a problem HHS is trying to remedy with financial incentives for health care providers who can fill this gap. The ongoing nursing shortage in particular seems to be a deeply entrenched problem nationwide.

I wonder what other changes - anticipated or not - health care reform might bring?

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