All health insurance plans now share some common characteristics. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that all health insurance plans offered in the individual and small-group markets must provide a comprehensive package of items and services, known as "essential health benefits". These benefits fit into the following 10 categories:
- Ambulatory patient services
- Emergency services
- Maternity and newborn care
- Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
- Laboratory services
- Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
- Pediatric services, including dental and vision care
The requirement for insurance plans to offer essential health benefits is just one of many changes in health coverage as of 2014.
Another important change is that consumers can no longer be denied coverage or charged extra due to pre-existing conditions. For people with chronic illnesses this is great news! Rates are based solely on the consumers’ age and home address.