On March 23, 2010 President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). This monumental piece of legislation will extend insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans. In its first ten years, the PPACA will decrease the federal deficit by an estimated $143 billion. While the PPACA will have a positive effect on the country as a whole, it will also alter the coverage of some Rhode Islanders.
It is important to note that the Healthcare Reform Bill does not require that Rhode Island citizens change their health insurance provider if they are insured right now. The bill aims to extend health insurance to all American citizens, and fix some of the problems in the current system.
The most drastic changes in legislation will not occur until 2014. At that time the bill projects that nearly all Americans will obtain full coverage. At this time states are required to implement marketplaces, known as a health insurance exchange, in which individuals, families and small businesses can buy coverage. Subsidies will be provided for those who cannot afford it, and Medicaid will be expanded to cover low-income childless adults. Citizens who fail to purchase coverage by this date may be subject to tax penalties.
By 2014 the bill will also disallow any insurance company from denying a patient coverage because of a preexisting condition. Currently, Rhode Island state law allows insurance companies to apply a lifetime cap on coverage to its customers. However, the new law will ban this practice.
While most of the provisions of the Health Care Reform Bill will not be instituted for another three years, there are effects of the bill that were imposed upon its signing. According to the Bill health insurance providers are now required to extend coverage to children of customers up to the age of 26. This provision concerning children used to be contingent upon school enrollment, however now coverage is extended regardless of educational standing.