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HHS Secretary Sebelius Explains Health Reform

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), recently spoke about the new health reform legislation. The Secretary began her remarks by discussing how many people understandably still have questions about the law and stressed that HHS is where Americans should go to have all of their questions on health insurance reform answered.

Sebelius explained that provisions in the CHIP reauthorization act and the Recovery Act that both became law in 2009 are the base that the rest of reform is being built on. Some provisions from the health law take effect immediately, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, while others, like the implementation of the health care Exchanges and tax credits for coverage, will not be available until 2014.

In addition, tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums are available to small businesses now to make employee coverage more affordable. Beginning in 2014, the small business tax credits will cover 50 percent of premiums.

“Our goal is to put these Americans back in charge of their health care. We will provide information and education if it’s needed; set basic guidelines that will help foster a competitive insurance market; serve as an umpire to make sure insurance companies treat Americans fairly; and provide targeted resources to help empower consumers,” said HHS Secretary Sebelius. “It’s about giving Americans more choices, more security, and more control.”

HHS intends on working closely with states on implementing this law. Health reform will provide many benefits to states, such as lower spending on uncompensated care, saving money because of reduced insurance paperwork and receiving more resources from the federal government to provide coverage to children.

The Secretary stated that she expects state high risk pools to be up and running in 2010. About 34 states currently have high risk pools, according to Sebelius, however the costs are so high that many people who qualify cannot afford to join. If states choose to create new high risk pools under the health reform legislation, rates in these pools will be capped at 100 percent of the market rate, and if a state does not choose to create a pool, there will be a federal pool available.

Secretary Sebelius said that HHS is working to implement the law with the goals in mind of making information as convenient for all Americans to access as possible so that people have the health information they need to make smarter choices, utilizing existing resources as much as possible to fulfill new responsibilities while saving money, and making sure that all Americans are treated fairly under the system.

Secretary Sebelius suggests visiting the HHS reform Website, healthreform.gov, often for the most updated information.