Young Female DoctorThe Affordable Health Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, according to Healthcare.gov, with the overall goal of achieving health insurance reforms across the nation. Due to its comprehensive scope, portions of the Act will be rolled through 2014 and beyond.

The overall timeline of the Act includes a Health Insurance Marketplace coming in late 2013, which promises a competitive insurance marketplace. Coverage for the plans will go into effect in 2014, according to AARP, making it easier for individuals and small businesses to afford health insurance.

What benefits are already in place?

A host of preventative services are now available at no cost under many insurance plans and no cost-sharing by other insurance plan members. The Affordable Care Act is also already closing the coverage gap for Medicare Part D, which offers discounts on prescriptions through 2020 for those who qualify.

Adult children may now remain on their parent’s plan until age 26 and insurers are not legally able to drop coverage for people of any age who become disabled or ill. Health insurance plans are no longer legally able to limit the amount they pay for lifetime medical costs or deny coverage to those under age 19 who have preexisting health conditions.

What preventative services are now available at no cost?

A total of 26 preventative services are available for children, 22 for women, and 15 for all adults. Children’s services include behavioral assessments, blood pressure screenings, immunization vaccines, medical histories, obesity screenings and counseling, vision screening, and height, weight and body mass index measurements.

Children at higher risk of certain conditions can receive additional testing and screenings. These include testing for tuberculosis and dyslipidemia and screening for certain blood disorders or lead exposure. Fluoride supplements are also part of the deal for children who lack fluoride in their area’s water source.

Newborns and younger children can benefit from free screenings for autism, congenital hypothyroidism, hearing, sickle cell, and developmental disorders. Newborns can receive preventative eye medication to guard against gonorrhea and younger children at risk for anemia can receive free iron supplements.

Adolescents have free access to HIV screening, depression screening, and screening and prevention counseling for sexually transmitted infection. Assessments for alcohol and drug use are also on the list of no-cost services.

Highlights of the free preventative services for women include annual mammography after age 40, cervical cancer screenings, and screening for high-risk, younger women for Chlamydia infection. Education and counseling on birth control, domestic violence screening, and counseling and screenings for HIV and HPV are also included.

Women over age 60 can receive free osteoporosis screenings, while those of all ages can receive tobacco use screening, sexually transmitted infections counseling, and well-women visits. Syphilis screening is available for women who are pregnant or at an increased risk of the disease.

Pregnant women can additionally take advantage of screenings for anemia, urinary tract infections, gestational diabetes, Hepatitis B, and Rh incompatibility. Breastfeeding support, counseling, and certain devices are covered under the Affordable Care Act, as are folic acid supplements.

Preventative services for adults include screenings for alcohol abuse, blood pressure, depression, and tobacco use. Obesity counseling and screening is on the list, as are free vaccinations and free aspirin for adults of a certain age who may benefit from its regular use.

Adults who hit a certain age or are at an increased risk of certain conditions can receive screenings for colorectal cancer, Type 2 diabetes, HIV, cholesterol, syphilis, and sexually transmitted infections. Those at a high risk of chronic diseases can benefit from no-cost diet counseling.

What other perks are on the way?

A major perk coming in 2014 involves your potential benefits. Healthcare plans will no longer be able to put annual limits on the overall dollar amount of coverage you are allowed to receive under the plan.

Tax Credits for Families is slated for 2014 as a way to help middle-income families better afford health care. In the meantime, a number of benefits are already in effect as of May 2013. The credits will apply to those who are between 100% and 400% of the national poverty line and do not meet eligibility requirements for other low-cost plans.

Is everyone going to benefit?

Plans that were in place prior to the law’s signing on March 23, 2010, may be exempt from following some of the new regulations. Such grandfathered plans may not be required to offer the entire range of preventative services at no cost to the policyholder. They can also hold firm to the same rules they had regarding claims, denial of coverage, or the type of providers or emergency care you are able to receive under the plan.

Even grandfathered plans, however, do have to follow several rules that stem from the Affordable Care Act. They will no longer be able to cancel your coverage due to an honest mistake on your application. They must extend coverage to adult children on their parent’s plan until the children reach age 26 and they can no longer stipulate lifetime dollar amounts on certain health benefits.