Some people may seek care in the emergency department thinking they have coverage. However, according to the Senate Web site's immediate benefits timeline, health reform will provide "access to affordable coverage for the uninsured with pre-existing conditions" within 90 days.
Though the legislation also provides $5 billion in immediate federal support to help pay for affordable coverage, Gardner says that to be eligible, patients will have to show that they applied to commercial health plans and were turned down because of pre-existing conditions.
There are potentially millions of newly insured, but Gardner isn't sure that hospital emergency teams will be slammed. "Honestly, I don't think anyone can get a handle on this. Even for those of us who have been involved in this topic for 18 months, it's so complex and huge. I've been chin deep in this 18 months and even I can't predict everything that will happen when this takes effect."
The new health reform law includes 29 provisions scheduled to take effect in 2010, but patients will probably not see the impact of any one of them for at least three months, and most will not take effect until this fall or later.