For the disability community, the passage of healthcare reform has brought a collective sigh of relief. While not perfect, the law has nailed many important facets of coverage for disabled Americans — including expanding the pool of people with disabilities who are eligible for Medicaid. It introduces critical provisions that no longer permit health insurers to deny coverage, overcharge for premiums, offer less coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, or impose annual or lifetime caps on benefits.
To help decipher the new rules, the United Spinal Association and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association have created a free publication that explains in detail how the bill improves the lives of people with disabilities.
“The Impact of Health Care Reform on People with Disabilities” provides the inside story on healthcare reform, including an analysis of insurance market reforms, mandatory health plan coverage provisions, home- and community-based services, Medicare outpatient therapy caps and Medicaid eligibility requirements, and making sure medical facilities and equipment are accessible, including chairs used for exams, weight scales, mammography equipment, x-ray machines, and other diagnostic equipment.
With this publication, USA “aims to educate the public on the wide array of benefits that healthcare reform will have on people living with disabilities,” as well as deter “the spread of misinformation due to lack of understanding of these complex issues,” says Paul J. Tobin, United Spinal Association President and CEO.
The study reveals some interesting nuggets and perspectives that haven’t been talked about much in public. For example, Congress will impose a $20 billion excise tax on medical device makers to offset the costs of health reform. Although the tax is imposed on manufacturers, the paper says consumers will ultimately bear higher costs for items such as protheses, wheelchairs, and speech-generating devices.
On the positive side, the law will mandate coverage of rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, which are essential to people with disabilities who depend on them for treatment to maintain muscle bulk and minimize spasticity. Pre-health care reform insurance policies did not cover them or severely limited the number of treatments.
As for coverage, for now many people with pre-existing conditions are eligible to purchase insurance through high risk pools, but to be eligible they must have been without any health coverage for at least six months. The insurance won’t be cheap, either. This all changes in 2014, when the new provisions go into full effect. At that time, states must have health insurance exchanges (or alternatives) through which people and some employers may purchase health insurance.
Anti-seizure drugs that were specifically excluded from coverage under Medicare Part D will now also be covered.
The analysis was prepared by Spinal Cord Advocates, a public policy collaborative of United Spinal and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, with assistance from the American Association of People with Disabilities.
For anyone with a disability who relies on health insurance for medical coverage, it’s worth bookmarking this report, and arming yourself with the facts for the next time you place that potentially dreadful call to your insurance company.