A number of Affordable Care Act provisions took effect last week, and the Patients’ Bill of Rights, which is part of the new law, may be of particular importance to older Americans. Those who are reaching their senior years but are not yet old enough for Medicare have been subject to the most egregious insurance company abuses suffered by any demographic group.

New protections that may be especially important for older Americans include preventing insurers from canceling coverage after a patient becomes ill, preventing insurers from placing a cap on coverage, requiring insurers to provide preventative care with no out-of-pocket cost, and preventing insurers from canceling coverage due to a preexisting condition.

In 2011, several other provisions applying to seniors will take effect: Nursing home training and standards will be improved, and seniors falling into the drug doughnut hole will be given a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs. Furthermore, better protection against elder abuse and neglect and financial exploitation will be available in 2011, along with free wellness visits for Medicare-eligible seniors.