Capitol Hill

Health care details

After a titanic, yearlong struggle in Congress, President Obama recently signed historic health care legislation into law. Now you need to fully understand the law's complex requirements and its potential effects. Although the law's major components do not take effect until 2014, there are provisions that could affect employer health care plans as early as late this year.

Early changes

First, any employer group health care plan that was in effect on March 23 of this year is considered "grandfathered" under the new law and will operate according to somewhat different rules than new plans. However, plans can lose their grandfathered status, and the law gives the secretary of health and human services wide latitude to determine, through the regulatory process, what changes to a plan will constitute loss of grandfathered status.

One of the new law's first ramifications is that all employer group health care plans must comply with insurance reforms that take effect in September. These reforms will be implemented by insurance companies but may affect plan benefits and/or premiums as early as late this year or early 2011.

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