New health care reform policies take effect

By Lora Chance - email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - New health care reform policies take effect Thursday, Sept 23, six months after the health-reform bill was signed.

The new policies offer new protections for consumers. Young adults, for example, will be able to stay on their parents' insurance plans instead of being taken off when they graduate.

"Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for children up to the age of 26," explained Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union.

Lifetime caps on coverage will also be banned and insurers can longer cancel coverage due to sickness. These changes take effect right away. Annual caps, however, will be phased out over next three years.

Some of the new consumer protections only apply to new health insurance plans.

"It's the concept of grandfathering," explained Guest. "A plan that was in place on March 23 when the plan was signed into law, if that plan doesn't change over time, the new provisions don't entirely kick in."

An employer plan must preserve the benefits it offered as of March 23, 2010 or it will lose its grandfathered status. Individual plans purchased for the first time after March 23, 2010 are not considered grandfathered health plans.

To learn more about the changes, check out Consumer Report's free online guide at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

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