The New York Times article “For Many, Health Care Relief Begins Today,” marks the first round of amendments to the health care system, enacted September 23rd, 2010, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). A number of the PPACA provisions that go into effect on this date have important implications for health care access for children and adolescents.
First, a new provision in the PPACA requires group health plans and health insurers issuing group or individual policies to extend coverage until dependents reach age 26. This provision will allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan for a longer period of time. This change could have a significant impact on the large numbers of adolescents and young adults who are currently uninsured.
Second, the patients’ “Bill of Rights” takes effect. These provisions eliminate most annual and lifetime limits on insurance coverage, prohibit private insurers from refusing any individual (including children) coverage based on a pre-existing condition, and prevent health plans from dropping coverage when a child or adult becomes ill. These provisions will relieve the burden of health care costs on the chronically ill of any age, including parents of chronically ill children, many of whom are currently forced to purchase an expensive individual insurance policy for a sick child.
Finally, new provisions require private insurers to cover routine preventive services (e.g. physical examination. immunizations, hearing and vision screening and developmental screening) without any cost-sharing. This provision has the potential to greatly improve access to prevention and screening for children and adults alike.
These provisions represent only a small sample of the provisions within the PPACA that will impact children and adolescents. The Center for Adolescent Health and the Law, a nonprofit organization working to promote the health of youth and their access to comprehensive health care, publishes policy briefs containing cogent analysis of the effects of health care policy on youth. For more information on the impact of these and other aspects of the new health care reform laws on youth, please see their most recent publication: “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010: How Does it Help Adolescents and Young Adults”.