Coming soon to a health care plan near you: The Health-Care Law Provisions Taking Effect in 2011

Change is scary but knowing what to expect helps. Check out the changes to our nation’s healthcare that will be in effect starting in 2011. Please note that most of the big stuff is happening in 2014. -SP

By Katherine Hobson
Parts of the uncatchily named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka the health-care overhaul law, began to kick in earlier this year. But in 2011, other provisions will roll out — some as soon as January 1.

The Kaiser Family Foundation counts 21 provisions taking effect next year. Among them:

-The requirement that the proportion of premium dollars spent on medical care must amount to at least 80% for small business plans and 85% for large group plans will kick in. The so-called medical loss ratio was the subject of discussion and lobbying this year as insurers jockeyed to meet the requirements — and to avoid paying consumers rebates if they don’t.
It’s the beginning of the end for the Medicare prescription-drug “doughnut hole.” Next year drug makers will provide a 50% discount on brand-name medications that fall into that coverage gap. Federal subsidies for generics will also begin.

-For Medicare beneficiaries, there will be no cost-sharing for certain preventive health services that receive an A or B rating from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

-You won’t be able to pay for OTC drugs out of your flexible spending account, unless those drugs have been prescribed by a physician. (There are some exceptions.) We wrote recently about the change and how to figure out what’s eligible. The same applies to health reimbursement accounts.

-Calorie counts and other nutritional information will be posted on chain-restaurant menus and on food sold via vending machines.
The health-care overhaul law’s major provisions — such as the mandate that almost everyone purchase insurance, the requirement that insurers accept all comers and the establishment of state-based insurance exchanges — don’t take effect until 2014.

Click here to read the full article and the many helpful links at the Wall Street Journal online.

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