When you’re caring for a family member or another loved one, it is too easy to put your own health on hold. Studies show that caregiving takes a negative physical toll on caregivers, and they often delay or forego their own routine medical care.
Don’t lose heart. There is relief on the horizon. If you are a family caregiver, the health care law can benefit you and your dependents. By understanding what is in the law, you can make better health care choices for you and your family.
Getting health insurance is easier.
If you are uninsured, there will soon be more options for you to get coverage through the so-called “health insurance exchanges” being set up throughout the country. Exchanges provide one-stop-shopping for health insurance so you can compare plans and prices before making a decision. If you are uninsured, you should also note that if you are eligible for insurance -- through an exchange or elsewhere -- but do not purchase it, you could be subject to a penalty under the health care law.
The exchanges will begin offering health coverage in 2014; more information will be available in the fall of 2013. Visit AARP’s Health Law Guide at www.aarp.org/healthlawguide to stay informed as the law is implemented and to find personalized information about how the health law works for you.
Health coverage is becoming more affordable.
Did you know that you no longer have to pay some out-of-pocket costs for preventive care? This includes services such as immunizations, mammograms and other screenings for certain cancers and diabetes.
States also have the option to expand their Medicaid program to cover more people and to receive federal funding to cover virtually all of the expansion. This expansion could help you if you have limited income and don’t currently qualify for your Medicaid program.
In addition, if you have limited income, beginning in 2014 you may be able to get tax credits to help pay for insurance purchased through a health insurance exchange.
Better protections from unfair insurance practices.
Good news—the days of insurance companies dropping you if/when you are sick are over. Your coverage is guaranteed as long as you pay your premiums. Insurance companies can no longer place lifetime or annual dollar limits on your health coverage. This ensures that your benefits won’t run out when you need them the most. On top of that, starting in January 2014, insurance companies can no longer reject you because you have a pre-existing condition.
Improved access to information about long-term care services.
The health care law gives you access to more information about nursing home inspections, complaints against facilities and residents’ rights. This will help you make better decisions if you need to select a nursing home for your loved one.
Care for yourself first, and you’ll care for others better.
Caregivers lead busy lives. We juggle a lot at one time, and we often forget to take care of ourselves. It’s important to nurture your own needs and take care of your own health so that you have the strength, presence of mind and stamina to help those who are depending on you. Find information and resources to help you with your caregiving responsibilities by visiting AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center at www.aarp.org/caregiving.
Nicole Duritz is Vice President of Health Issues at AARP, leading the Association’s member and consumer health education and outreach programs, which include work on issues such as Medicare, the new health care law, prescription drug affordability, long-term care, prevention and wellness, and wise use of medications.