Federal Healthcare Reform: Overview
After a contentious debate that dragged on for a year, President Obama signed into law sweeping federal healthcare reform legislation (H.R. 3590) on March 23, 2010. A reconciliation bill, (H.R. 4872), to fix aspects of the major bill also passed and was signed March 30. Both bills passed with unanimous opposition from Republicans.
Advocates hailed passage of the bills as an overdue victory for the uninsured which will prevent insurance company abuses that have kept people from being able to purchase affordable health insurance. Opponents decried both the method in which the law passed as well as its substance, arguing that the law’s mandate on individuals to purchase insurance is unconstitutional and that healthcare costs will continue to soar in the future.
Together these two federal healthcare reform laws create tighter regulations on health insurers and extend health insurance to millions of uninsured individuals. Specifically, the new laws remove lifetime benefit caps on insurance plans and ban insurance company practices such as denying coverage to individuals because of pre-existing conditions. States have the option of expanding Medicaid coverage to nearly all individuals under the age of 65 with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line – Ohio has taken advantage of this option. Changes to the Medicare prescription drug program aim to help close a gap in coverage.
Federal Healthcare Reform: Implementation Challenges
With many on both sides of the aisle calling the legislation imperfect, future challenges and modifications to the law are likely. Supporters won a huge victory on June 28, 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 majority to uphold the bulk of the federal healthcare reform law. Republicans have vowed to continue their efforts to repeal the law through the legislative process.
As the healthcare system has evolved in the United States, hospitals, consumers and other stakeholders have found themselves operating in a system in which too many people are uninsured, insurance premiums continue to rise, and inefficiencies abound. The Center for Health Affairs applauds passage of federal healthcare reform legislation that aims to decrease the number of uninsured, improve the quality and efficiency of the system, and provide important consumer protections.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the federal healthcare reform law has put to rest questions about the law’s legality. While the protracted legal battle is over, controversy over the law is not expected to dissipate. Moving forward, The Center will continue to keep members apprised of the latest federal healthcare reform developments and any anticipated and unanticipated effects the law may have on the hospital community.