Affordable Care ActAre you ready for the Affordable Care Act?  In a superb Wall Street Journal piece—headlined The Health-Care Overhaul: What You Need to Know–Anne Tergesen points out that its “financial protections and coverage requirements are likely to help older Americans the most.” The first of three blogs features excerpts from her informative article.

“Whatever its larger merits or shortcomings, the federal health-care overhaul seems likely to benefit one demographic group in particular: the 50-plus crowd.

“Starting Oct. 1, state-based health-insurance exchanges created by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will open for business. For those without access to insurance through work, or for the self-employed who have been buying coverage as sole proprietors, the exchanges will serve as clearinghouses for evaluating and buying health plans.

“The policies, which will take effect Jan. 1, must cover 10 “essential benefits,” including preventative services, hospitalizations, mental health and prescription drugs. Notably, insurers can no longer exclude people with pre-existing conditions.

Going Without

“All that is good news for individuals ages 50 to 64, who typically have more health problems than those who are younger. (Most people become eligible for Medicare at age 65.) Twenty percent of the 50-to-64 demographic went without health insurance for at least part of 2012, up from 15% in 2005, says the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based nonprofit that focuses on health-care issues. What’s more, between 20% and 29% of people in that age group, when they applied for health insurance, were rejected in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade organization for health insurers.

“Even older individuals who have insurance through work might benefit. Many would prefer to start a business, change employers or retire but are clinging to their jobs solely for health coverage.

“The new law makes coverage easier to obtain, simply because ‘insurers no longer can turn you down,’ says Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based nonprofit that focuses on health-care issues.”

Up next: Young Subsidize Old