In Sonoma CA, Seven Health Care Changes You Might Have Missed

Seven Health Care Changes You Might Have Missed

You've probably heard that the new health overhaul law this year will provide an option for young adults to stay on their parents' health plans and set up insurance pools for people with pre-existing medical conditions who can't find insurance. But several lesser-known provisions also take effect in coming months that could have a lasting impact on the nation's health care system.

These provisions include eliminating patients' co-payments for certain preventive services such as mammograms, giving the government more power to review health insurers' premium increases and allowing states to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults without children.

While these changes might not have gotten at lot of attention, they could help build support for the law in the run-up to the contentious mid-term elections. Here's a quick look at some of the changes occurring this year:

Prevention For Less

What: Insurers won't be able to charge co-payments or deductibles for certain preventive services such as breast cancer screenings every one to two years, cholesterol blood tests and some sexually transmitted disease screenings. Insurers will also have to cover recommended immunizations at
no cost to patients. Some health care analysts have suggested that premiums may rise as a result of this and other new requirements, but administration officials say any increase in premiums would be miniscule. 

When: The change takes effect Sept. 23, which means it applies to plan years that begin after that. For many plans, their new year begins after Jan. 1.

Status: The Department of Health and Human Services says regulations are on their way. Paul Bonta, associate executive director for policy and government affairs at the American College of Preventive Medicine, predicts manufacturers of vaccines and diagnostic tests will push for their products to be labeled preventive services in a bid to have them covered at no cost to consumers.

Knowing Which Treatments Work Best

What: A nonprofit research institute will examine various medical treatments -- by looking at data and conducting its own studies -- to determine which methods work best. This is often called "comparative effectiveness research."

When: The comptroller general of the United States -- who runs the Government Accountability Office -- will appoint the 17 members of the institute's board of governors, which will oversee the institute's operations.

Status: Everything about this institute, from its board members to its findings about treatments, is likely to generate great interest and potential controversy. The law says the board's findings can't be interpreted as requiring how doctors practice medicine or what insurers cover. However, in the quest to control health care costs, employers, insurers and others may point to such data as rationales for changes in coverage and treatment patterns.

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