It is difficult to believe that it has been a year since the federal health care reform bill was signed into law. Hard to believe it even passed, and though it continues to face legal challenges, several of its provisions have already gone into effect. Here are a few ways we can take advantage of the rules and get the most for our healthcare dollars.
Step 1: Adult children can now remain on the health insurance policies of their parents until age 26. Under previous regulations, they had to be removed upon graduating from college or turning 21. Health plans usually require that children be added during open enrollment but under certain circumstances, like losing their own health coverage, they can be added mid-year. Parents who already have family coverage may not need to pay more to add their older children.
Step 2: Certain preventive-care screenings must not be subject to co-payments or deductibles, under many health plans. The rules may pertain to tests for diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure, colonoscopies, mammograms, routine vaccines, flu shots, and well-child or well-baby visits. Ask your company benefits representative or insurer about whether your health plan qualifies.
Step 3: Medicare beneficiaries are also entitled to preventive benefits like a customized prevention plan and annual wellness visit. Medicare now does not charge deductibles or co-pays for things like mammograms, pneumonia or flu shots, hepatitis B vaccinations, cholesterol tests or screenings for colorectal, cervical, or certain types of prostate cancer.
Step 4: Nontaxable money in a health savings or flexible spending account now cannot be used to pay for over the counter medications, except insulin. However, a loophole allows the money to be used if a prescription is obtained, so ask your doctor for prescriptions for regularly used over the counter medications.
Step 5: As of 2014, health insurers will not be able to reject applicants due to pre-existing conditions. Until then, people with pre-existing conditions may qualify for coverage under high-risk insurance pools if they have been uninsured for a minimum of six months.