Upcoming Healthcare Changes Benefit Children and Families

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President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) into law on March 23, 2010 to expand coverage options for 32 million people, including some changes that positively affect children and families. Several of those key changes are set to take place in September 2010.

Although state Medicaid programs are feeling financial strain, the healthcare law prevents restrictive changes to Medicaid or CHIP eligibility levels and enrollment procedures that were in effect the day the law was signed. In fact, states can expand eligibility or simplify enrollment to assist families in participating in the programs.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helps underinsured children and pregnant women whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private insurance. About 11 million children are enrolled.

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On September 23, as the new health plan year begins, young adults can remain on their parents’ health plan until the age of 26. Currently, states regulate at which age children are dropped from their parents’ insurance policy, which is generally around 18 except for some college students who can continue coverage until 23-25 as long as they remain in school.

Another positive change occurring in September is that children with health problems can no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. Insurance plans can also no longer impose lifetime caps or restrictive annual limits on coverage, nor rescind coverage when a person becomes sick.

In addition, the PPACA has set aside funds for comprehensive school-based health clinics to help medically underserved children and adolescents.

New insurance plans must also provide free preventive services to all enrollees. Consumers will be able to receive preventive medical services that are recommended from the US Preventive Services Task Force without co-pays or deductibles as long as the service is provided in network. For children, this includes vaccinations for influenza, diphtheria and tetanus, screenings for hearing and vision impairment and autism.

Another program that will be available for children at no charge is Bright Futures, a national health promotion initiative launched by HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau in 1990.

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