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Published: Thursday, 9/23/2010

Health-care reforms go into effect today

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

FALLS CHURCH, Va. - Several main provisions of the new health-care law take effect Thursday, the six-month anniversary of the signing of the act.

Starting now, insurance companies will no longer be permitted to exclude children because of pre-existing health conditions, which the White House said could enable 72,000 uninsured to gain coverage. Insurers also will be prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.

The law now forbids insurers from dropping sick and costly customers after discovering technical mistakes on applications. It requires that they offer coverage to children under 26 on their parents' policies.

It establishes a menu of preventive procedures, like colonoscopies, mammograms, and immunizations, that must be covered without co-payments.

And it allows consumers who join a new plan to keep their own doctors and to appeal insurance company reimbursement decisions to a third party.

President Obama launched a new attempt to convince Americans of the advantages of the healthcare overhaul yesterday.

He traveled to the sub-urban backyard of a family home in Falls Church, Va., to talk about provisions of the new law and highlight his argument that health-care reform will help control the U.S. deficit.

"Sometimes I fault myself for not being able to make the case more clearly to the country," Mr. Obama told the audience of about 30 people.

The event included Americans from across the country who are already benefiting from health-care reform, the White House said, seeking to put a human face on a law that has seemed to many voters to be a confusing array of new rules.

Republican critics have railed against the regulations as an expensive and unwarranted intrusion into private business at a time when the country is grappling with high unemployment and record deficits.

Polls show support waning for the health-care law, which was passed over opposition from health insurers and intense objections of Republicans. Many have vowed to repeal it or at least chip away at its provisions.

Participants in the event told their stories of health crises and benefiting from the law. Mr. Obama used their stories - of a woman who had cancer but could not get coverage until the new "high risk pool" started on July 1 or a woman who had not been able to buy an insurance policy to cover her son's eye surgery - to strike back at the health-care law's opponents.

Mr. Obama challenged Republicans to acknowledge the consequences of paring back the plan.

"I want them to look you in the eye and say, 'Sorry, Gail, you can't buy health insurance;' or, 'Sorry, little Wes, he's going to be excluded when it comes to an eye operation that he might have to get in the future,'•" Mr. Obama said.

He underscored what he sees as the tie between the healthcare act and his plans to cut the budget deficit, after criticism that his focus on getting health care passed distracted from efforts to strengthen the stumbling economy.

"The single biggest driver of our deficit is the ever-escalating cost of health care," Mr. Obama said. "So it was bankrupting families, companies, and our government. So we said we had to take this on."

Many Republicans and even some Democrats are running against the healthcare overhaul as they campaign for the mid-term election on Nov. 2.

The Republican strategy "makes sense in terms of politics and polls," Mr. Obama said, acknowledging the electorate is divided. "It just doesn't make sense in terms of actually making people's lives better."



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