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Health care reform: What can you expect right away?

By Ed Hornick, CNN
  • President Obama says there will be immediate health care relief if bill passes
  • Some items include no lifetime caps, help for seniors and small business tax credits
  • Democrats are under pressure by White House to move bill forward

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama launched his health care reform effort shortly after taking office, saying the country could not afford to continue to sustain the costs and the burden on families.

After a year of bitter partisan debate, the House passed the Senate's bill and it awaits the president's signature. The measure constitutes the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted more than four decades ago.

A separate compromise package of changes expanding the reach of the measure also passed the House, and will be taken up this week by the Senate.

Although some of the provisions in the reform bill won't be implemented immediately, here's what Democrats say would go into effect in the first year:

Eliminating caps: If you buy a policy, a health care company will not be able to place a lifetime -- or annual -- cap on how much they will cover. This is will be especially important for those diagnosed with serious illnesses, such as cancer, who face steep medical bills.

Pre-existing conditions: The Senate bill includes $5 billion in immediate support to provide temporary coverage to uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions. The money would help you until the new health care exchanges in the Senate bill are put into effect in 2014.

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Children and pre-existing conditions: Another thing that's going to be very important, CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger said, is that there will be no exclusion of children with pre-existing conditions.

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Dependent children: Your children will be covered until the age of 26.

"Children who are over 21 and may not have a job that pays their health insurance can still be on your policy," Borger said. "That's very important to a lot of families."

Small business tax credits: Those tax credits are aimed at helping small businesses buy health insurance for their employees. Tax credits of up to 50 percent of premiums will be available to firms that offer coverage, according to the Senate's plan.

Preventive care: All new insurance plans, Obama said, will be required to offer free preventive care in order to "catch preventable illnesses and diseases on the front end."

Appeals process: A new independent appeals process will be set up for those who feel that they were unfairly denied a claim by their insurance company.

Help for seniors: If you fall into the Medicare Part D Drug Benefit coverage gap, dubbed the "donut hole," you will receive $250 to help pay for prescriptions.

Even with these changes, many activists in both parties are concerned about the specifics in the Democrats' bill.

"[The White House] says, 'These are the deliverable items [Democrats] can bring home to your constituents, and they're going to see it within the next six months,' and then the White House believes they're going to change their minds, and they're going to decide that they like health insurance reform," Borger said.