The Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law that is commonly referred to as health care reform. It became law in 2010 and brings major improvements to our health care system. Quality health care coverage will now be available to millions of Americans who have been unable to purchase health insurance on their own.A comprehensive, concise summary of the Affordable Care Act is provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
ACA health care improvements
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures that:
- Parents can keep kids on their insurance until they are age 26.
- There is no lifetime cap (or limit) to how much insurance will pay.
- There is no annual cap (or limit) to how much insurance will pay.
- You cannot be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition.
- You cannot be dropped from your insurance if you get sick.
One of the factors in the new law is that almost everyone will be required to have health insurance by January 1, 2014. If you get your health insurance through your employer, your coverage probably will not change.
In Washington, everyone who still needs to get health insurance can use a new web portal, Washington Healthplanfinder
— our state’s version of an “exchange” or “marketplace.” On October 1, 2013, it will be open for Washingtonians to shop for and enroll in quality, affordable health care plans.
It’s also where, if you are a Washington citizen with low income, you can apply for Medicaid. Or, you can see if you qualify for subsidized health care plans. If so, your new coverage under the Affordable Care Act will begin on January 1, 2014. (Beginning October 1, for new applicants for children, pregnant women and family medical Medicaid/Apple Health programs, coverage will begin on the first day of the month in which the application was submitted.)
Medicaid Expansion and Apple Health
The Affordable Care Act raised the income limit on eligibility for Medicaid. It also simplified how you qualify and how you apply.
By the way, we are changing the name of Medicaid to Apple Health.
You should be eligible for Medicaid/Apple Health if:
- you are a U.S. citizen or a documented immigrant living in Washington who has been in the U.S. for at least five years,
- you’re not incarcerated,
- and your annual income is at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
If you’re single and your income is $15,856 or less, you should qualify. Different amounts are designated for different-sized families.
When you apply, you will need to know your monthly household income. You don’t need any other financial information. You will also need the Social Security number and date of birth for each household member. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you’ll need your immigration information.
If your income is at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level (in other words, four times the poverty level), you should qualify for subsidized health insurance. For a single person, that’s an annual income of $45,960. For a family of four, it’s $94,200.
If you qualify for subsidized insurance, you’ll get a tax credit that goes directly to the insurance plan to help pay for your insurance. Undocumented immigrants are eligible for subsidized insurance for a limited time. You can find out if you qualify by applying at Washington Healthplanfinder
Essential Health Benefits
All qualified health insurance policies must cover these standard basics:
- Hospitalization — A stay in the hospital, including inpatient surgery and recovery.
- Emergency services — Visits to the emergency room, including ambulance services or treatment at an urgent care center.
- Ambulatory services — Doctor visits when you’re sick or injured, or outpatient clinic visits.
- Prescription drugs — Medicine your doctor orders.
- Laboratory services — X-rays, MRIs, blood tests, etc.
- Maternity and newborn care — For women who need prenatal care or help with pregnancy, complications and delivery.
- Pediatric services, including oral and vision care — Dental check-ups, routine eye doctor visits, eyeglasses, immunizations, and more.
- Preventive and wellness services, including chronic disease management — Screening tests for things like osteoporosis and mammograms, and help living with long-term illnesses like diabetes.
- Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health.
- Rehabilitative services and devices — Physical therapy, speech therapy, artificial limbs and other medical equipment.
- Habilitative* services and devices — Helping people with disabilities learn life skills.