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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

A blog by IllinoisHealthMatters.org

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What lies ahead for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2012?

2011, the first full year for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), is coming to a close. As we’ve written about in the past blog posts, Facebook posts, tweets or on our home page, the year saw many ACA developments, from the announcement of the definition of “essential health benefits” that are guaranteed under the law, to the initial stages of Illinois’ health insurance exchange legislation, to the rescission of the CLASS Act. This year also saw the early effects of the law’s impact – from the young adults who can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plan, to the seniors whose prescription drug costs in the Medicare “doughnut hole” are shrinking, to the people with chronic conditions who are no longer uninsured due to the availability of the state’s federally funded pre-existing condition insurance plan. 

Of course, many provisions of the ACA will not take effect until 2014, but several provisions of the law are slated to start in 2012, including:
  • A series of demonstration projects designed to strengthen Medicare by eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse;
  • The Medicare Independence at Home demonstration, which will test out coordinated care medical teams providing care to certain high-need Medicare patients in their own homes;
  • A Medicaid demonstration, which will allow bundled payments for medical care that include hospitalizations, as well as extending the Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations savings to pediatric providers within those organizations; 
  • A new annual tax on pharmaceutical companies; and
  • On October 2012, Medicare payments for hospital readmissions will be reduced, to offset excessive readmissions to hospitals, such as early discharges from a hospital, which could result in a return visit.
What will undoubtedly become the biggest news of 2012 will be the Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of the ACA, beginning on March 26, 2011. Due to the number of different arguments against the ACA – ranging from the validity of the individual mandate to the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion - the outcome of the case could take many different forms, from keeping the law in its entirely, striking down the whole law or portions of the law. The decision is expected in June 2012.

Also in 2012, it will be important to watch how the implementation of pieces of the ACA that are already in effect will continue, most notably, the establishment of a health benefits exchange in each state. Many states, have already begun the implementation, and are at various stages in the process, such as the 15 states (like Illinois) that have already enacted an exchange or intent of establishment legislature. Other states are working to pass such legislation, and others have not taken any steps towards establishing an exchange, either deferring to the federal government to run their exchanges, or riding on the assumption that the ACA will be struck down in the upcoming Supreme Court case. (See here for a recent news article about the status of the Illinois Exchange).

There are still many unknowns about the future of the ACA; however, what’s clear from our eight-part Neighborhood Stories series is that we have a lot of work to do to educate the communities in Illinois about the benefits of the law for small businesses, individuals/families and community organizations. Stay tuned to Illinois Health Matters for interactive features in early 2012, to help YOU understand how health care reform will impact you, your family and your community.

Happy, Healthy Holidays! 

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