Health care reform bill 101: What does it mean for kids and families?

It will affect families differently, depending on their incomes, home states, and job situations. In general, the health care reform bill expands coverage for kids, adolescents, and young adults.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
President Barack Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, as he makes a statement after the health care bill passed, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday.

“Wow, this new healthcare bill looks like a big deal. How is it going to affect my family?”

Millions of Americans are probably asking that question in the wake of the historic House passage of reform legislation Sunday night. The debate over this issue has been long, heated, and confusing, after all. The bill itself is thousands of pages long. Who has the time to follow that kind of thing when there is laundry to do, and meals to cook, and math homework to check?

The short answer is that healthcare reform will affect families differently, depending on their different circumstances.

Healthcare 101: What the bill means to you

For those struggling to pay bills, who’ve avoided buying insurance because it costs too much, reform might mean they'll have coverage, at least in a few years. For those at the top end of the income scale, it will mean higher taxes, fairly soon.

For the vast majority of middle-income families, details of employment, dependents, and place of residence might change how the healthcare bill will alter their lives.

Here are a few specific family-oriented changes in the legislation:

Kids with health problems. Healthcare reform legislation prohibits insurers from excluding from coverage children with pre-existing health conditions. This provision takes effect immediately upon the bill becoming law.

The bill would also prohibit insurers from excluding adults with pre-existing conditions, but not until 2014.

Older children and parental insurance. Dependent children up to age 26 will be able to stay on their parents' family policy, after President Obama signs the bill. (There’s no special regulation as to what this will cost, however.) Currently, states regulate the age at which children are kicked off their parents' insurance policies. Generally, it's around 18 years old.

Children's health insurance program. Kids' eligibility for the popular CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program), which helps lower-income families, must be maintained, under the bill. States, even if hard-pressed by budget shortfalls, will not be able to cut children from the program until 2019.

Wellness program. Under bill language, "qualified health plans" will have to provide – with no cost-sharing – immunizations and other preventive health services for infants, children, and adolescents. This provision takes effect six months after the bill becomes law.

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Health Care Reform Bill 101:

Introduction: What the bill means to you

Part 1: Who must buy insurance?

Part 2: Who gets subsidized insurance?

Part 3: What's a health 'exchange'?

Part 4: How long will reform take?

Part 5: Who will pay for reform?

Part 6: What will it mean for business?

Part 7: What does it mean for kids and families?

Part 8: What does it mean for seniors?

Part 9: Rules for preexisting conditions

Part 10: Will it make health care more effective?

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