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Summit to Detail Changes under New Health Care Law

August 30, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - At the West Virginia Health Care Reform Summit today and Tuesday in Charleston, experts from around the country will address what is coming to the state. Kathleen Stoll, deputy executive director of Families USA, says 21,000 West Virginia small businesses already qualify for help with the cost of their employees' health insurance coverage. She says insurance policy reforms taking effect this fall include phasing out pre-existing conditions as well as limits on annual and lifetime coverage.

"People have insurance, they get sick, they have some big medical bills and, all of a sudden, their insurance that they've been paying for just ends - no more. This new law completely eliminates lifetime limits."

Critics of health care reform have warned that it moves the country toward a government monopoly, but Stoll sees it differently. She says the health insurance exchanges being set up in every state will mean more and better choices, including coverage for people who cannot get insurance now.

Also, in spite of fears that health care reform will undermine Medicare, one of its goals is to strengthen that federal government program, she adds.

"It actually improves the Medicare benefit package. It eliminates all cost-sharing for preventive services, and over time, it's going to close the so-called Medicare prescription drug 'doughnut hole.'"

In four years, people with incomes of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify for Medicaid. In West Virginia, that means an income of up to about $24,000 a year for a family of three. Stoll says although it is a big increase in that state program, it should actually be good for the state budget.

"This is going to be net savings for West Virginia's government. You're going to see more people with coverage, so you'll have fewer people relying on programs that serve the uninsured."

The summit is being held at the Charleston Marriott Town Center. More information is available at http://wvhealthreform.wordpress.com.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV