New York makes steps toward Obamacare

In March 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or, as it is more commonly known, Obamacare. A number of people have asked my office questions about how this will work. Unfortunately, a lot has yet to be decided. However, all states are required to have some of the law's provisions in place by the end of 2010 and an ambitious timeline has been established through 2014 to meet all of the federal requirements. I wanted to take some time this week and next to help explain some of the health care changes that will take place.

Under current New York law, health insurance companies cannot deny coverage to people seeking health insurance who have a pre-existing medical condition. However, there is a one-year waiting period before insurance has to cover that condition. For example, if you have diabetes, you cannot be denied health insurance but your insurer doesn't have to provide coverage for the diabetes for one year from the time of your enrollment. The rationale for the one-year waiting period is that people should be encouraged to get health insurance prior to getting sick. If there wasn't a one-year waiting period, conceivably anyone could wait till they got sick before getting insurance.

Under Obamacare, there will be no waiting period for coverage of pre-existing medical conditions but that provision will not go into effect until the requirement that everyone have health insurance is instituted. In the meantime, the federal government is offering subsidies for states to immediately provide insurance coverage for people who are currently uninsured and have a medical condition. New York has taken advantage of this subsidy and, on Oct. 1, New York began contracting with GHI, a private health insurance company to administer what the state is calling the NY Bridge Plan.

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