America rings in the new year with new health reform benefits

Senator Tom Harkin

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Americans across the country prepare to welcome the New Year, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) today highlighted new health care benefits that will take effect on New Year’s Day. These new provisions, established by the Affordable Care Act, will require insurance companies to give Americans better value for their premium dollars and provide seniors with discounts on prescription drugs and free preventive care.

“What many Americans may not know is that as they’re ringing in the New Year, they’re also ringing in important new health care benefits created by the Affordable Care Act,” said Chairman Harkin. “Starting Saturday, insurance companies will be required to dedicate at least 80 percent of health care premiums to actual health care services rather than profits or executive salaries – and if they don’t comply, their customers will get a refund. Meanwhile, our senior citizens will be able to get big discounts on their prescriptions and free preventive care to keep them healthy.”

The Affordable Care Act was signed on March 23, 2010 by President Obama. Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, played a pivotal role in the bill’s passage and was on hand for the bill signing.

Among other new protections taking effect on January 1, the health care law will:

Give Americans Better Value for Their Premium Dollars – Insurance companies will now be required to spend 85 percent of all premium dollars collected for large employer plans on health care and improving quality of care. For plans sold to individuals and small employers, at least 80 percent of the premium must be spent on benefits and quality improvement. If insurance companies do not meet these goals because their administrative costs or profits are too high, they must provide rebates to consumers.

Offer Prescription Drug Discounts to Seniors – Seniors who reach the Medicare coverage gap known as the “donut hole” will receive a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs covered by Medicare Part D.

Provide Free Preventive Care to Seniors – Seniors on Medicare will now be offered free preventive services, such as annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans.