How does healthcare reform affect you?

The Free Medical Clinic saw 1,300 new patients in 2009.

Edith Calloway TMs story is all too familiar to the volunteer providers at The Free Medical Clinic in Columbia.

I had a choice to get insurance or try to live day-to-day, said Calloway.

Calloway has been receiving care at The Free Medical Clinic for more than a year now; after she was forced to retire from her job due to a debilitating injury and could no longer afford her insurance premiums.

I would be sick or dead, says Calloway, so this place really was a blessing for me.

Calloway is lucky in that she was able to get help. According the latest numbers from the Institute of Medicine 18,000 people in the U.S. die each year because they lack insurance.

The healthcare reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama nearly two months ago aims to provide affordable coverage to every citizen.

USC professor Mark Thompkins studies public policy, and has taken an interest in the legislation. He says the health overhaul will do several things within the first 12 months, such as: children up to age 26 will be allowed to remain on their parents' insurance plans. Another provision bans insurance companies from setting caps on coverage.

It means that people will no longer be thrown off their health insurance system because they spent too much money, said Thompkins.

It also mandates that policies can not be canceled when a patient gets sick, and coverage for children will not be denied because of pre-existing conditions. It will apply to adults as well in 2014.

And patients with pre-existing conditions, like Calloway will be eligible for a new federally-funded "high-risk" insurance program.

These high-risk pools will offer insurance coverage to people who couldn't get it up until recently, says Thompkins, and they'll do it in a way where it will be more affordable.

The healthcare reform will also do some immediate things for the elderly. Seniors will get a $250 rebate to help fill the "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Although Thompkins says the bulk of changes are still four years away. Starting in 2014, a person who did not obtain coverage will have to a pay a penalty.

Medicaid will expand coverage to those under the age of 65 that meet the income requirements; and to make insurance more affordable, the federal government will offer premium subsides for the low-income.

In addition, young adults in their twenties will have the option to buy a lower cost "catastrophic" health plan.

The federal government will pay a greater share of the costs for providing care for the poor, says Thompkins, and the federal government will help states do a better job of providing that care, and provide care to more people.

But the coming changes are still far from a cure all.

When it TMs fully implemented it will cover about 75 percent of all the people that are currently uninsured, well that still leaves 25 percent without any coverage, said executive director Dennis Coker of The Free Medical Clinic.

As for Calloway, she understands just how expensive insurance can be; however, the cost of living without it she says can be far too great.

The federal government estimates the healthcare reform will cost tax payers roughly $900 billion over the next 10 years.

Opponents to the bill say the cost will be much higher and government-run healthcare is unconstitutional.

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster has joined more than a dozen other states in appealing to the Supreme Court, which has yet to make a decision on whether the healthcare reform is constitutional.