Health Reform Overview and Rain Check

Last Updated Mar 22, 2010 4:56 PM EDT

The health care reform measure that's passed Congress and headed for the President's desk to be signed into law will have a dramatic long-term impact on virtually every American, regardless of whether you receive health insurance through work or buy it on your own. The passage was a major victory for President Obama, who made health care reform a cornerstone accomplishment of his presidency. But for every American who is helped, another may pay more for coverage or more in taxes and fees, creating a new list of health care winners and losers.

The measure:

  • guarantees that everyone can buy coverage, regardless of their health; and their coverage cannot be restricted to preclude coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • will provide government subsidies for people who cannot afford the cost of health insurance premiums
  • bolsters the Medicare program to cover more of the poor and unemployed
  • demands that individuals buy coverage or face penalties that will rise over time
  • creates new taxes and levies on industry to pay the cost
Legislative leaders also threw in a revamp to the nation's student lending laws which will have a significant impact on the amount of government aid available to college students and where they are able to go to get their loans.

But with this (and any other law), the devil is in the details. This complex legislation spans more than 1,000 pages of text, much of which alters other laws that must be read to understand the impact of the changes. Insurers are also scrambling to determine how new policies that will be required under the law can be effectively priced and underwritten. The law also will go into effect in stages, spreading out the impact over time.

How will it affect you? Instead of speculating, I'll make you a deal: Ask specific questions here in our comment section, giving details about your situation and the type of insurance you have now. I will do my best over the coming weeks to interview experts in both health and tax policy to get accurate answers.

Questions that can be answered in a few paragraphs will be handled here in the comments section. Those that require more complex, nuanced answers will be handled in separate blog posts.

What do you want to know? Fire away.

More on MoneyWatch
Health Care Reform: Who Wins; Who Loses
Health Care Stocks Rally on Vote
Health Reform Cheat Sheet: Who Pays?
Broader Health Care First, Pain Later