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Watching the Zigs and Zags of Health Reform

October 4, 2011

Eighteen months after the federal health reform law was signed into law by President Obama, the debate, controversy and media coverage surrounding it haven’t slowed a bit. If you Google “health care reform law – news,” 6,000 news stories and opinion pieces come up. “Health care reform law – everything” brings up an overwhelming 14 million entries. With proponents trying to put the law into effect and opponents still trying to kill it, there’s no dearth of information. Here are key events coming up that could affect the law.

  • The ACA is likely headed toward its biggest legal test now that the U.S. Supreme Court is back in session. The Obama Administration has requested the court hear Florida’s appeal to overturn the law as unconstitutional, and it is unlikely the court will refuse to do so. The decision, whichever way it goes, is expected to be the most important of the court’s term – maybe the biggest decision in a decade – and a major influence on next year’s presidential election should the court rule this term. We should know within a month if the court will hear the case.
  • This Friday, the Institute of Medicine will release its recommendations on “essential health benefits.”  The recommendations are expected to guide the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in determining which health benefits should be included in insurance plans offered on the health exchanges. This report is one of the most highly awaited aspects of the law since the recommendations could affect the whole health care system. Stay tuned for more on this.
  • By mid-October, HHS is expected to release its report on 18 months of study of the CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) Act. The act would allow people to pay monthly premiums for five or more years to be eligible for assistance with long-term care costs if they become disabled, allowing many to stay in their communities for care rather than entering a nursing home. Opponents believe the program is not sustainable financially, and CLASS’ outlook is indeed shaky.
  • Here in Colorado, legislative Republicans last week delayed the state’s application for a federal grant to set up the health insurance benefit exchange, which would allow individuals and small businesses to buy insurance through an online marketplace. Their objections centered on projected high salaries for some exchange employees and language about adhering to federal requirements. There’s another deadline in December. Missing that could mean Colorado would lose $22 million in federal funding.

CHI will be following these and other developments related to health care reform and analyzing their potential impact on health policy decisions in the state.