Happy Birthday ACA. And many, many more?
One year after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, public opinion remains split, Republican congressmen are attempting to withhold funding for implementation and judicial threats loom. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, public opinion has changed very little over the course of the past year. The survey found that a plurality has an unfavorable impression of the PPACA and a slight majority opposes repealing and replacing it. The Kaiser poll also showed that for most Americans, the dominant emotion is confusion. "Confused" outranked "Angry," "Enthusiastic," or "Anxious."
In an attempt to drive support for the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration is launching a nationwide campaign to boost public support this week with 200 events staged around the country. Notwithstanding the Administration's plans for the week, according to the Wall Street Journal, lawmakers and some policy experts are saying that the upcoming phases of implementation will be more difficult to sell than the early ones because they include fewer consumer-oriented changes.
On Thursday March 17, the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act was discussed for the first time in a congressional hearing. HHS is seeking $120 million in the 2012 budget to begin implementing the CLASS Act, which establishes the first national system of long-term care insurance for working people. At the hearing, House Republicans questioned why HHS is requesting millions of dollars for a program Sec. Sebelius has acknowledged is flawed.
The new medical loss ratio rule that requires insurers to limit administrative costs classifies agents and brokers as "administrative expenses" and has led insurance agents and brokers to worry that the Affordable Care Act will put them out of business. On Thursday March 17, lawmakers from both parties introduced a bill that would assist these agents and brokers by redefining them as part of "medical care expenses" instead.
In the States:
1) Thirty four major public and private employers in South Carolina, including the state of South Carolina, have enrolled in a program created by the Affordable Care Act, which gives them access to a $5 billion pool to help ease the cost of high medical claims filed by early retirees. Also in South Carolina, major health players including BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Health Sciences of South Carolina and the South Carolina Hospital Association are joining together to commit to "The Triple Aim," which seeks to improve the experience of care, improve the health of populations, and reduce per capita costs.
2) Florida's House and Senate plans for Medicaid reform were approved this week, but there are significant differences between the two. The two chambers will coordinate their bills in the next few weeks.
3) Add North Dakota to the list of states requesting a temporary waiver from the "medical loss ratio" rule, which requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on care.
4) In Texas on Thursday, a bill, which would declare the Affordable Care Act invalid in Texas, was presented to a state House committee. Another bill under consideration in Texas would allow states to form compacts to take over certain federal health care responsibilities. Nineteen other states are seriously considering a health care compact.
5) On Thursday March 17, the Vermont House Health Care committee approved a bill that would adopt single-payer health care system in state. The bill creates health insurance exchanges and a five-person Health Care Board that would oversee all aspects of Vermont's health care system.
6) The Georgia House voted 108-63 to join the proposed interstate health care compact.
7) In Indiana, the parent organizations of two Indiana hospitals are planning to merge into a new company because they feel the need for integrated delivery as provisions of the Affordable Care Act are implemented.
8) Republicans in the Minnesota House proposed massive cuts to Health and Human Services programs to help cut the state's $5 billion deficit. The bill would remove 7,200 people from the MinnesotaCare health insurance program and save $300 million by cutting payments to those HMOs and doctors that provide least efficient care.
9) Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced a $500 million proposal to cut Medicaid on Tuesday March 15 to replace her original plan to drop 280,000 people from Medicaid. The new proposal would eliminate 120,000 people and reduce provider reimbursement rates by five percent beginning in October.
10) The Oklahoma Senate voted Monday March 22 for a bill that will allow the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to spend an additional $15 million in federal stimulus funds, which will allow the agency to maintain its current operations for the remainder of the fiscal year ending June 30.
11) On Monday March 21, Kansas House members attempted to exempt Kansas from some Affordable Care Act provisions by introducing an amendment that would allow sick children younger than 19 years to join the state's high risk insurance pool. The House and Senate will meet in conference committee to reconcile the two bills.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has decided to speed its review of a legal challenge to the PPACA by the American Center for Law and Justice.
The Medicaid and CHIP Payment Access Commission (MedPAC), which became fully operational after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, released its first official report: http://www.macpac.gov/reports. The Commission recommended a one percent increase in payment for inpatient and outpatient hospitals and physician fee schedule services.
CMS recently added more questions and answers regarding electronic health-record incentive programs to the frequently asked questions portion of its website.
Though CMS Administrator Berwick and HHS Secretary Sebelius have told those in health fields and the general public several times that the proposed rules for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which were expected in December, would be released very soon, Sec. Sebelius has now promised that HHS will formally propose its ACO model by the end of March.
A coalition of groups representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and consumers (from groups including the AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, the American College of Physicians, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the Catholic Health Association and the National Community Pharmacists Association) launched a website geared to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act: http://www.HealthCareandYou.org. The site ignores the politics of health care reform and tells consumers what the PPACA is and what they need to know based on the state in which they live.
According to a new study published by the Commonwealth Fund, 57 percent of Americans who lost jobs through which they received health insurance over the last two years (almost 9 million people) could not afford to regain coverage. The study also said that around 52 million Americans had no health insurance in 2010, compared with around 38 million in 2001.
On Monday March 21 The Heritage Foundation hosted a lecture entitled Why Doctors Need Full repeal of Obamacare: Medical Professionals Diagnose the Law's Side Effects. On Wednesday March 23, Health Care for America Now! will host a rally and protest, titled Citizens hearing for ACA Anniversary General in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Also on Wednesday, the Brookings Institution will hold a live web chat during which a healthcare expert will review steps taken thus far toward implementation of the Affordable Care Act and answer questions about the law's prospects on Capitol Hill. On Thursday March 24, the American Enterprise Institute will host a book event about the book out this week,Why Obamacare is Wrong for America.
As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.
To view our compilation of this week's health care reform implementation news, click here.