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Health Briefs

Big health care, health insurance changes coming

A new federal health care law expands insurance to include more benefits for more people. They include the tens of millions with no insurance now. To help people pay for health insurance, the new law created tax credits and subsidies from the U.S. government.

It also comes with some changes and responsibilities for companies offering health insurance to their workers. Nearly all firms will be expected to offer health benefits to employees – though some may not under certain circumstances spelled out in the law.

Beginning in January 2014, most individuals living in the U.S. will be required by law to have health insurance. This is known as the "individual mandate." If individuals decide not to sign up for health insurance, they are subject to fines on their tax return.

The new health care law also has measures intended to help cut the high cost of health care. They range from incentives for people to take good care of their health, to making it easier and cheaper for health care services to be delivered to you.

Here are some major changes within the new law to help consumers:

  • You can now keep your adult children – up to age 26 – on your plan.
  • Children under age 19 cannot be denied coverage due to a medical condition that already exists. These are called "pre-existing conditions." In 2014, "pre-existing condition" limits go away for everyone.
  • Health benefits considered "essential," such as preventive and wellness services and prescription drug coverage, will be included in most individual policies and group benefit plans. Called Essential Health Benefits, this coverage won't end when you reach a certain dollar limit in a year (or over the lifetime of your policy).

In 2014, "guaranteed coverage" goes into effect. This means most people will be able to get insurance coverage without being turned down due to age, gender, health history, or where you live. To learn more, visit