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New health law changes take effect in 2014

This will all cost a great deal of money. According to news reports published in the Christian Science Monitor, the price tag is about $940 billion over the first 10 years. On top of that, small businesses will receive $40 billion in tax credits as an incentive to offer health insurance to their employees. New taxes, fees on health insurance companies, drug manufacturers and medical device manufacturers will be instituted to raise the revenue needed for subsidized health care. Medicare will see changes too, specifically Medicare Advantage will experience cuts throughout the next 10 years. (Medicare Advantage is an alternative to traditional Medicare and often offers more options.) Also, individuals who are on Medicare who make more than $200,000 a year or a couple that makes more than $250,000 will see a tax rate increase by .9%. Additionally, the bill creates a new tax of 3.8 percent on unearned income, such as dividends and interest, for people in the same income bracket.

Other noteworthy fees and taxes include: $16 billion from 2011 to 2019 for drug manufacturers; $47 billion for health insurers over the same period; medical device manufacturers would pay a 2.9 percent excise tax on the sale of wares beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

In the near future, I'd imagine people can also expect to hear of studies found by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The law allocates $500 million in seed money for this new nonprofit organization that will compare treatments. Supporters say this center will figure out whether cheaper drugs, medical devices or surgical techniques work just as well as more costly options. Opponents worry this could lead to rationing of care. In other words, new or expensive treatments may be an excuse to deny coverage for insurance companies.

Where New York stands

According to the New York State Health Department, nearly 5 million New Yorkers are covered by public health insurance: Medicaid insures 4.5 million people; Child Health Plus insures almost 400,000 children. Over 10.5 million New Yorkers have employer-sponsored health insurance and 2.7 million New Yorkers are uninsured.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

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