There are several important changes on the horizon this year as additional provisions of the health care law are implemented. Here are a few.
Seniors are affected by several of the provisions. They will get big discounts on prescription drugs. Prescription drug costs (Medicare Part D) could go down by $700 for a typical Medicare beneficiary in 2011.
Several provisions of the law promote prevention of disease, especially for seniors. Medicare enrollees will be able to get many preventive health services – such as vaccinations and cancer screenings – for free starting in January.
Medicare is increasing up payments for primary care by 10 percent from Jan. 1 through the end of 2015. It’s an incentive for doctors and others who specialize in primary care – including nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants – to see the growing numbers of seniors and disabled people covered by the program
Beginning soon after the Food and Drug Administration finalizes rules in 2011, chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, and owners of 20 or more vending machines, will have to display calorie and fat information on menus, menu boards and drive-thru signs.
Consumers with flexible spending accounts (FSAs), in which pre-tax income can be used for medical purchases, can no longer spend the money on over-the-counter drugs, including ones that treat fevers or allergies and acne, unless they have a doctor’s prescription. The new restrictions, which lawmakers included in the health overhaul to raise more revenue, also apply to health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), health savings accounts (HSAs) and Archer medical savings accounts (MSAs).
Starting this year, health insurers must spend at least 80 percent of their premiums on medical care, or face the possibility of giving rebates to consumers. (Editorial note: don’t hold your breath for any rebates).
For a useful timeline of all the changes coming this year, check the Kaiser Family Foundation website. The U.S. Government’s timeline of what’s changing and when is also helpful. Bottom line: Stay Informed!