Californians feel benefits of federal health law

 Californians are already beginning to feel the benefits of the new federal health care law, a newly released progress report by Health Access reveals.

While the major provisions of the three-month old Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) won’t take effect until January 2014, significant portions of the law are already kicking in and others will do so over the next several months and years, the statewide health care advocacy group reported.

New benefits include help to afford coverage and additional consumer protections against the most unscrupulous insurance company practices.

An estimated 576,500 California children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied medical treatment or access to their parents’ insurance based on previous health conditions. Under public pressure, insurers have already announced they will comply with the federal prohibition officially taking effect Sept. 23.

California seniors stand to gain more than those in other states who fall into the “donut hole,” the coverage gap in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, because they spend a record $381,636 out-of-pocket for prescribed medicines.

California seniors who fall into the doughnut hole started receiving a $250 rebate to help with the prescription drug coverage gap last week.

The association of health insurers informed Congress earlier this year that as of May they would end the practice of rescissions, where coverage is suddenly revoked based on problems in the patient’s initial health questionnaire, even if the patient had been paying premiums for months.

Because of increased media and state regulatory oversight, the insurers’ group moved ahead of the September date when the new more stringent federal laws are scheduled to take effect.

For the full report and more complete information on the struggle in California for implementing and improving the federal health law, go to the Health Access website.

Photo: Marilyn Bechtel