What Healthcare Reform Means for You

President Obama recently signed historic legislation to make healthcare available and affordable to millions of Americans. Here�s how the new law could affect you.

After more than a year of political  wrangling, searing debate, and vitriolic protests, President Barack Obama took a historic step toward making medical treatment available for all Americans when his healthcare reform package passed both houses of Congress. Even though he asserted that the legislation he signed into law in late March—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010—“isn’t radical reform but it is major reform,” it clearly intends to surgically transform the nation’s healthcare system. Says Cara James, Kaiser Family Foundation’s Director of Race, Ethnicity and Health Care group: Out of the estimated 45 million total uninsured, “there are about 30 million to 32 million people in this country who do not have health insurance and would continue to be uninsured without this bill. It’s groundbreaking.” She maintains that although the measure will cost an estimated $938 billion over the next decade, millions of Americans will reap enormous benefits.

The legislation requires most individuals to purchase health insurance and will cover millions through an expansion in Medicaid, subsidies to families, and tax credits to small businesses. Among other measures, the package also allows for the creation of healthcare exchanges at which uninsured individuals and small businesses can shop for insurance policies; reduction in out-of-pocket prescription costs for seniors on Medicare; and restriction of insurers to deny coverage of individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.

Without question, large numbers of African Americans would benefit: Nearly one in five do not have health insurance, according to White House figures. Also, African Americans generally spend as much as 16.5% of their income on healthcare expenses versus 12.2% for whites.

So what does this law mean for you? Clearly, the legislation is not a universal prescription. Since there has been much confusion and, in some cases, misinformation about healthcare reform, black enterprise decided to examine the plan. We dissected the new law’s impact on consumers, small businesses, and taxpayers. To help you engage in long-term financial planning and choose the best options, we’ve included a calendar that tells you when key provisions go into effect. Turn the page to find out if healthcare reform is just what the doctor ordered.

Consumers
When President Obama signed healthcare reform into law in late March, Kashawn Alston finally exhaled. Access to health insurance would be welcome relief for the 46-year-old student at Laurus Technical Institute in Jonesboro, Georgia. The former New York City resident moved to Georgia two years ago to pursue a degree in HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) while working a series of odd jobs such as house painter, roofer, and stocker at a local store. The jobs, however, did not offer healthcare coverage. He couldn’t afford insurance and had trouble gaining a policy because of a pre-existing condition: Alston has type 2 diabetes and must deal with occasional blood clots.

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