Monday, April 12, 2010

Many workers will see health insurance changes

WASHINGTON — Although the recently passed health-care legislation will most dramatically affect Americans who don't have health insurance, most non-elderly Americans — about 160 million — are expected to keep getting coverage through their employers.
But workers could see some changes as a result of the new health-care law.

Will my employer have to offer any new benefits?

Yes. Beginning as soon as this fall, companies that offer health plans will have to allow employees to keep their children on their plans until the children are 26 years old.

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Employers will also be prohibited from putting lifetime caps and some annual caps on benefits for their employees.

Companies that begin offering new health plans will be subject to other new requirements, including a mandate starting in 2014 to provide an "essential benefits package" that is expected to be more comprehensive than a typical employer-provided plan. (Employers with existing health plans would be exempt from this new requirement.)

Will my employer be able to scale back benefits?

Yes. Most employers that now offer health plans would be able to change the kind of medical benefits they offer their employees, potentially increasing co-payments and deductibles or reducing what their plans cover.

What will happen to my premiums?

That's difficult to say, but most are expected to continue to increase in coming years.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that by 2016, an average individual policy provided by a large employer would cost about $7,300 a year (and slightly more for workers at small firms). An average family policy would cost about $20,300 a year (and slightly less for workers at small firms). As now, those premiums would probably be split between employers and employees.

In comparison, in 2009, the average employer-provided individual policy cost $4,824 a year, and the average family policy cost $13,375, according to an annual survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Will I see other changes to my paychecks?

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