National Health Reform and You
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AND THE HEALTH CONNECTOR
In March 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA will ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care and will transform the health care system to improve care and contain costs. Many of the law’s key provisions take effect in 2014.
To increase access to affordable health insurance, national health reform provides financial assistance to help low- and middle-income individuals access and pay for quality private health insurance plans. States are encouraged to set up health insurance Marketplaces, like the Massachusetts Health Connector–where individuals and small businesses (and their brokers, if they work with one) can learn about health insurance plans, easily compare them, and select the right one for themselves. The ACA also includes some changes to health insurance rules to improve benefits for consumers and make sure coverage is comprehensive. Furthermore, the law enables states to expand eligibility for their Medicaid programs. Massachusetts is taking advantage of this option in order to ensure that the lowest-income residents have access to affordable health coverage.
One of the key components of the ACA is the requirement for most people to have health insurance. This requirement is sometimes referred to as the individual mandate. (If someone does not maintain health insurance coverage, they may be subject to a penalty at tax time.)
Many of the central elements of national health reform were also part of Massachusetts’ health reform, which was implemented in 2006. As a result, many of the key provisions of the Massachusetts law will continue. However, the national law strengthens some aspects of Massachusetts health reform, which will mean better benefits, more protections for consumers, and more financial assistance to help pay for health insurance than before.
Massachusetts Leads the Way
Massachusetts implemented a state health reform law in 2006, which served as the model for national health reform in 2010. Health reform has been highly successful in Massachusetts; more than 97 percent of residents are covered—the highest rate in the nation.
While national health reform calls for the creation of Marketplaces to help individuals and small businesses compare and enroll in health insurance plans, Massachusetts already has a health insurance Marketplace—the Massachusetts Health Connector. In fact, today, nearly 250,000 residents get their health insurance through the Health Connector.
Also like the federal law, Massachusetts already has a requirement that most residents have health insurance. As part of this requirement, residents must have a health plan that meets certain standards. The state will keep this requirement to maintain our important coverage gains that have served our market well and make sure that all consumers have certain insurance protections. Health plans that meet the state standards will almost always meet the federal standards.