The new year brings new health laws into effect

By Brian Mooar
Posted by AJ Whipkey - email
(NBC) - The new year will change the way many of us get our health care under the reform law President Obama signed back in March.

Jenny Backus from the Department of Health and Human Services says "the insurance companies can't cap off about how much benefits you can get."

The Administration knows there are plenty of skeptics and is still trying to sell health care reform as a good deal for taxpayers.

Jenny Backus says "insurance companies can't discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions."

One new provision should help anyone with a job and insurance: employer plans have to spend 80% to 85% of your premium dollars on services related to medical care.

And for those on Medicare, the so-called donut hole is getting smaller.

Lynn Quincy of the Consumers Union says "the donut hole is a gap in coverage that exists for seniors who've spent a certain amount for drugs and is in what's called the "Part D" drug plan. Starting this year seniors who fall into that gap will get a 50% discount on brand name drugs and a much smaller discount on generic drugs."

Seniors will get free preventive benefits. They'll also have access to the end-of-life counseling that gave birth to all that talk of death panels. Doctors will be urged to talk to older patients about their end-of-life wishes.

Many of the biggest changes in health care reform, including a mandate that everyone buy health insurance, won't kick in until 2014.

But Republicans say the fight over health care isn't over and they hope to use their clout in the new Congress to dismantle the law.

The law also has a new rule for people with flexible spending accounts. There will be restrictions on using those funds for over-the-counter medications.