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Health-Care Bill: Consumer, Business Angles

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Love it or hate it, the House of Representatives passed the Senate's health-care bill last night. The law will have immediate and long-range effects, and 32 million additional Americans will be covered by health insurance.

The following are some of the ways the Patient Protection Act will affect individuals and businesses once the Senate completes its vote on reconciliation amendments, and President Barack Obama signs the final bill. The bill will cost $940 billion over 10 years and reduce the U.S. deficit by $143 billion over the same period.

Coverage

All individuals not covered by a private or employer-subsidized insurance plan, Medicaid or Medicare will be required to obtain health-care coverage by 2014.

Individual penalties for failing to obtain coverage begin in 2014 and increase each year through 2016. In 2014, the penalty is $95 or 1% of income, whichever is higher. In 2015, the assessment is $325 or 2% of income. By 2016, the penalty is $695 or 2.5% of income. In subsequent years, the penalty is indexed to inflation. Those under the age of 18, or still in college, would be penalized at 50% of the formula.

Lower-income individuals and households may qualify for federal subsidies and vouchers to purchase insurance based on a sliding scale indexed to the federal poverty line (FPL). The legislation also expands Medicaid to cover those with extremely low incomes.

The legislation excludes undocumented immigrants from coverage. Exemptions include a "religious conscience" provision, members of Native American tribes and those in jail.

Dependents, as defined by the IRS, are allowed to remain on their family's insurance plan until they turn 26 and cannot be removed by an insurance company prior to that age.

Uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions will immediately have access to insurance, and insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to them. Insurers will also be prohibited from denying coverage or setting discriminatory premium rates based on gender, health status, claims history or genetic information.

To improve medical services in rural areas and underserved communities, the legislation will offer scholarship and loan-repayment programs to expand the health-care workforce. The bill also includes incentives intended to attract providers to underserved areas.

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