Health Care Reform
How Family Caregivers Will Benefit From Health Care Reform
When it comes to the new health reform law, what we hear about most is how it will help millions of Americans buy health insurance at more affordable rates. But there are also lots of changes in store for family caregivers. In particular, those of us in the "sandwich generation," who care for both kids and aging family members, are finally getting some long-overdue relief.
Here are the new benefits we can look forward to, in the order in which they'll become available.
Temporary Early Retiree Reimbursement Program
What it does: Makes it possible to retire early and keep your health insurance
In the past, taking early retirement meant risking your health insurance status until Medicare eligibility starts at age 65. The new law creates a temporary early retiree reinsurance program that enables employers to keep early retirees -- those between 55 and 65 -- on company health insurance plans and be reimbursed by the Federal government for up to 80 percent of the cost. Spouses and dependents are also covered.
It went into effect June 23, but payments are retroactive to the beginning of the plan year. So, if you've already incurred high health insurance costs, you and your employer can apply for reimbursement. The program is called "temporary" because it ends in 2014, when the health insurance reforms will be fully activated, making it easier for early retirees to get health insurance.
Health insurance extension for young adults
What it does: Keeps both sides of the sandwich insured
Effective immediately, young adults up to the age of 26 can stay on their parents' health insurance policies even if they're no longer full-time students. This will eliminate an enormous source of worry for family caregivers: that grown children without insurance will encounter a serious health problem, pulling the whole family into debt. The new law also forbids insurance companies from defining "preexisting conditions" in children -- so all kids, sick and healthy, can be covered more easily.
Improvements to medicare prescription drug coverage
What it does: Makes prescriptions more affordable
If you have family members hit with high drug costs due to the "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage, they'll get at least a bit of a reprieve with a $250 "bonus" to help cover drug costs.
No more lifetime benefit caps or policy cancellation
What it does: Prevents a family health insurance crisis due to cost
Right now, those of us caring for older adults worry about the possibility of a financial crisis if a family member should end up with high medical costs that soar beyond the "lifetime cap" imposed by our insurance -- or cause an insurer to cancel a policy. Neither of those scenarios is possible, thanks to strict new rules for health insurance companies, prohibiting them from putting lifetime benefits caps on health insurance or cancelling policies on people who use too many services.
Money follows the person
What it does: Funds transitions into community-based care
This program extends the popular Money Follows the Person demonstration grants until September 2016. These grants are made through states to help transition Medicaid-enrolled nursing home residents back into their communities, in community-based settings.