March 25, 2010


Washington, DC - After days of voting and more than a year of public debate, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today praised the Senate majority for passing important improvements to health insurance reform that will bring immediate benefits to all Americans. He released the following statement after the Senate passed the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act by a majority vote of 56-43.


"One of the very first bills that I introduced when I came to the U.S. Senate was for universal health coverage for all Americans. Thanks to the health reform measures we have passed, I am proud to say we have finally reached that goal, which has eluded Congress and Presidents for generations.   Affordable, quality health insurance coverage will now be a right and not a privilege for every American across the country. I will fight to protect this right from anyone who attempts to diminish or repeal it.


"Health care reform will have an immediate impact on real families, small businesses and seniors in Maryland. We provide immediate tax credits for small businesses so they can afford quality health insurance for their employees, and seniors who have been caught in the Medicare Part D 'Donut Hole' will receive a $250 rebate this year before they see the donut hole disappear entirely in later years.   Insurance companies that have put profits over patients for too long are now prohibited from discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions and banned from rescinding coverage when someone gets sick."  


Some of the most immediate benefits of health care reform, which includes provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday, March 23, include:


Effective Upon Enactment


·          Provides tax credits to small businesses to make employee coverage more affordable. Tax credits of up to 35% of premiums will be immediately available to firms that choose to offer coverage. (Beginning in 2014, the small business tax credits will cover 50 percent of premiums.)


·          Provides a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the "donut hole" in 2010. (Beginning in 2011, institutes a 50% discount on brand?name drugs in the donut hole; also completely closes the donut hole by 2020.)


Effective 90 Days After Enactment


·          Provides immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre?existing condition - through a temporary high-risk pool.


Effective Six Months After Enactment


·          Prohibits health plans from denying coverage to children with pre?existing conditions. (Beginning in 2014, this prohibition would apply to all persons.)


·          Requires health plans to allow young people up to their 26th birthday to remain on their parents' insurance policy, at the parents' choice.


·          Bans health plans from dropping people from coverage when they get sick.

·          Prohibits health plans from placing lifetime caps on coverage.


·          Tightly restricts new plans' use of annual limits to ensure access to needed care. These tight restrictions will be defined by HHS. (Beginning in 2014, the use of any annual limits would be prohibited for all plans.)


·          For new plans, choice of doctors will be protected by allowing members to pick any participating primary care provider, prohibiting insurers from requiring pre-authorization before a woman sees an ob-gyn, and ensuring access to emergency care.


·          At a minimum, provides beneficiaries with a notice of internal and external appeals processes and allows beneficiaries to review their file and present evidence in their appeal.


Effective Beginning January 1, 2011


·          Eliminates co ?payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program.


·          Annual wellness check-ups for all seniors with no copays or deductibles.


·          Requires plans in the individual and small group market to spend 80 percent of premium dollars on medical services, and plans in the large group market to spend 85%. Insurers that do not meet these thresholds must provide rebates to policyholders.