According to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services in March, more than 105 million Americans are currently enrolled in health insurance plans that, prior to the passage of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, would have imposed lifetime coverage limits on their benefits.
In a press release accompanying the report, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “For years, Americans with lifetime caps imposed on their health insurance benefits have had to live with the fear that if an illness or accident happened, they could max out their health coverage when they needed it the most. Now, because of the health care law, they no longer have to live in fear of that happening.”
According to The American Journal of Medicine, approximately 60 percent of the personal bankruptcy actions filed in the U.S. are directly attributable to unresolved medical debt. About 75% of those individuals who file for bankruptcy actually do have health insurance. The cost of health care is so high in the U.S., however, that a major illness can easily generate medical bills in excess of $1 million, and it is estimated that annually, hospitals in this country overcharge patients by as much as $10 billion.
The removal of lifetime coverage limits is of significant help to people who are fighting long-term illnesses like cancer, and also facing the accompanying potential for devastating financial disaster. Additionally, about 28 million children will benefit from the changed policy. Health care reform has also made it impossible for children to be excluded from health care coverage due to a pre-existing condition, and they are allowed to remain on their parents insurance policies up to age of 26, regardless of their educational or marital status.
Approximately 70 million of those who no longer face lifetime caps have insurance as part of a large employer plan, 25 million on small employer plans, and 10 million through privately purchased health insurance.
Other data included in the report indicated that 3.5 million Medicare recipients saved $2.1 billion on prescription drugs in 2011 due to aspects of health care reform, with 32.5 million beneficiaries accessing free preventive health care.