New Health Care Benefits to Start Thursday, Still Embroiled in Political Debate

Americans Still Confused About New Provisions That Will Go Into Effect

ByABC News
September 21, 2010, 6:27 PM

Sept. 22, 2010— -- Denise Mackey has spent 14 years worrying about whether her son will continue to get treatment for hemophilia, a disease he has struggled with since he was born.

Mackey's son, Sean, hit her health insurance's lifetime cap several times and the family had to turn to state Medicaid.

But with the new benefits that go into effect, starting Thursday, Mackey says she will no longer have to worry about her son's treatment and medicine.

"It definitely is a big weight off our chest," she said, adding that she will no longer have to keep thinking "about chronic illness, worry about where you get your medicine and worrying you can't get it."

Insurance plans renewing on or after Sept. 23 will be required to eliminate lifetime limits on insurance coverage, offer coverage for children with pre-existing condition, remove lifetime caps on coverage, provide free preventive care and allow young adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' health plans, among other changes.

The benefits are expected to affect millions of Americans like Mackey. The Obama administration has ramped up efforts to tout the new law. Today, President Obama held a "backyard event" in Virginia at the home of a person who is benefiting from the Affordable Care Act.

But six months after the landmark bill was signed into law, people are still largely unclear about what the changes mean for them as health care remains embroiled in a heated political debate. More than half of all Americans believe the changes will raise taxes for most people this year, according to an Associated Press poll released Tuesday. About a quarter of respondents thought that the law would set up panels of bureaucrats who would make decisions about people's health, according to the AP.

Overall support for the health care law also remains low, although it goes up when people are asked about specific provisions, demonstrating the confusion among consumers.

A CBS/New York Times poll released last week found that 49 percent disapproved of the health care law, compared to 37 percent who approved. However, less than half of those polled, 40 percent, supported repealing the law, and the number decreased even more when the question of each provision, such as the pre-existing condition, was posed.

Officials insist that as more consumer protection provisions are rolled out, that support will automatically increase.

"People will come to understand the many benefits that are associated with it," said Steve Larson, director of oversight at Health and Human Services. "People have been flooded with misinformation and distortion about what the law does. We are going to continue to do what we can to communicate what the law is all about."

But voices opposing the health care law and new mandates are also growing louder. Opponents are funneling millions of dollars targeting lawmakers who voted for the health care law, and Republicans insist they will continue to fight to repeal the health care law.

"The health care system needs reform, but not the types of changes enacted under the new health care law," said Michael A. Needham, chief executive of Heritage Action for America, who heads grassroots efforts to push for repeal. "This highly unpopular law would assert federal control over health care benefits and financing, erect a complex one-size-fits-all health system and centralize America's health care decisions in Washington."