Implementing Health Reform – The Long, Hard and Twisting Maze

Health reform is now the “law of the land,” and “written in law.”  However, as people are quickly realizing, after a year of campaigning and more than a year of legislative action, implementing the new law will require navigating a long, difficult, and twisting path – even before any amendments are considered in this or subsequent Congresses.

Navigating the fast and slippery route to successfully implementing all the provisions of the PPACA will be daunting.  Three relatively recent laws are examples of the time and steps required for such implementation – and each of these was much simpler than the PPACA:

  • The Medicare Part D law was signed in December 2003 and the new benefit started in January 2006. This gave the Federal government about 2 years to develop the rules, sign up providing plans and facilitate enrollment by creating an exchange-like website and other resources, while the plans conducted the actual enrollment.
  • The Massachusetts health reform/insurance expansion law was enacted in April 2006. This was followed by a long series of staggered implementation steps. For example, insurance reforms, (on top of the state’s pre-existing significant insurance regulations), became effective in January 2007, and the new individual mandate started in July 2007.
  • The Federal stimulus law was signed in February 2009, and the HITECH Act part of the law included significant provisions and funding to boost the development and adoption of information technology by healthcare providers.  At the end of December 2009 a key draft rule on “meaningful use” was released, and it is expected to be finalized soon.  In the meantime, the Department of Health and Human Services has distributed funding to start the adoption of specific types of health IT.  (The April 2010 Issue of Health Affairs has a series of articles focusing on the implementation of the HITECH provisions of the stimulus bill.)

Written in Law – Not Written in Stone
The  implementation of these laws illustrates how it takes months and years after a law is signed to create the implementing rules and regulations, and to contract with organizations to actually carry out significant parts of the new law – and this is before any modifications are made by subsequent laws.

In the coming weeks and months, many entities will continue combing through the final law – which because of the circuitous path it took to Congressional passage is much more difficult to read and understand than most other new laws.  Some of the most challenging aspects of implementation will be in the states, where government agencies will have many new responsibilities and/or will need to be created. Federal and state governments, and many private organizations, will also probably need to hire people to carry out this implementation – and hiring government employees can be a lengthy process.

In addition healthcare companies – particularly health plans and insurers – will be working to determine how their business operations will be affected by new state and Federal regulations, despite the fact that those regulations haven’t been written yet.  And all but the smallest businesses will be seeking to understand how they will comply with – and possibly benefit from – the new insurance rules and financial incentives.

Overall, it is clear that the implementation will be the hardest part in taking health reform from a concept and a campaign position, to reality for individuals and society.  I know that many people in Washington DC – particularly Congressional, HHS and related health reform staff – worked very hard for many, many months in an exhausting process to get the law passed.  For Congressional staff at least, the implementation will be the responsibility of others, while Congress’ work will be to ensure that this implementation is consistent with their intent, and to work with HHS to adjust provisions according to the real-world bumps and detours in the road from here to there.

The cartoon below summarizes the expanding and complicated challenge of implementing health reform through the inevitably twisting and complicated path better than any combination of words could… I’ll have more about specific provisions and implementation in the coming days, weeks, and months….


3 thoughts on “Implementing Health Reform – The Long, Hard and Twisting Maze

  1. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work.

  2. Health Care Reform Act-intent for Change

    For many years, America’s health brokers have been offering health insurance to individuals, small businesses and large businesses for decades, yet the enrollment statistics have revealed a steady decrease on an annual basis. The number of uninsured Americans is estimated to be as high as 30 million, and the Health Care Reform Act offers a solution. Not only will there be a higher enrollment number for America’s health brokers, but as of 2014, it will be required by law for every American to obtain health insurance. Every single American will be impacted by the New Health Reform Bill, making it one of the most important measures of the 21st Century.
    The main focus will be on businesses of 50 or more employees, in which they will be required to offer individual health plans, as well as family plans to all employees or face some stiff fines from the government. The amount comes to $2000 per uninsured employee, though there are exemptions to this fine. If you as an employer assist an individual with acquiring a personal health insurance plan through an open market called an exchange, then it would result in no fines. This only applies to an individual who makes a certain amount under the Federal Poverty Level, and the premiums are over 8% of his annual income.
    America’s health brokers can rest easy in the fact that there will be expanded coverage, though there may be more competition. With the rise in individuals who will have health insurance, there may not be as large of a risk as one may assume. Though the new bill will require America’s health brokers to enroll individuals with pre-existing conditions, there will also be a new population of young individuals who will be insured with fewer health problems.
    It is understood that larger companies already provide a group insurance plan (HMO, PPO) that covers all areas of needs for the population of employees. These policies will change very little, but there may be some changes in where the funding for the new health care plan will come. It is proposed that those making a certain amount of money, both individuals and couples, will be taxed at a higher percentage than others. This will provide money that can be used for the exchange and making sure that all individuals will be offered an affordable health plan.
    There are still a few years before the plan goes into full effect, though some of the measures will be enforced immediately. There will be plenty of time to sort out the details and iron out the difficulties. As for the plan, anyone who does not have health insurance as of January 1, 2014, will be penalized a certain amount of money, and this amount could become worse if health insurance is continuously neglected. There has never been a better opportunity for America’s health brokers in terms of acquiring a new customer base-a broader customer base. Also, there has never been a better time in history for individuals being provided with the resources for the necessary medical treatment. This is a very unique time, with history in the making. Finally, there will be health care for all.

  3. A Government proposal for Change-Health Care Reform Act

    March 2010 may stand out as a monumental month for change with the Obama Administration-Americans can look forward to changes in the current health care system through the passing of the Health Care Reform Act. Though there are many details that need to be ironed out, there are many changes that have been established.

    There are two factors that will have the largest impact for Americans and America’s health brokers:
    1) The fact that as of 2014, it is required by law for employers to offer affordable health insurance plans to all employees.
    2) As of 2014, all Americans will be required to acquire health insurance.

    Employers-For businesses over 100 employees, there may not be many changes. The difference may be that part-time employees will be offered aid with a percentage of hours in relation to full-time employment. This will offer benefits to those who do not have that same opportunity currently as a part-time employee. With businesses under 100 employees, there will be opportunities for credits from the government to offer aid with those employees. A percentage will be paid, based on payroll that will pool to help those who acquire insurance through an exchange, where many of America’s health brokers will provide different affordable insurance plans for all individuals.
    What is the incentive for employers to offer insurance?
    Employers will face a fine of up to $2000 per employee for not providing insurance coverage to an individual employee. These fines can be diverted if the employer offers an alternative means to acquire insurance (which would require assistance through the exchange).
    Individuals-As of 2014, all Americans (with the exception of certain special case individuals) will be required to carry some form of insurance. Insurance will either be offered through employment or affordable insurance can be purchased through the exchange. America’s Health brokers will offer many new plans and opportunities to acquire cheap health insurance.
    What is the incentive for individuals to acquire insurance?
    According to the law, there will be a penalty assessed to all Americans who fail to acquire health insurance by the year 2014. The fine will be originally set at $695 per person, per year. This will hopefully be enough to encourage those who are not insured to carry some form of low cost health insurance.
    America’s health brokers will be seeing some changes that could affect them. Pre-existing conditions will no longer be applicable in denying insurance to children. As of 2014, America’s health brokers cannot deny health insurance to anyone due to a pre-existing condition. There are other factors that will change certain policies and conditions.
    The Health Care Reform Bill is an opportunity to reorganize the condition of care that is offered in the United States. There are many issues that riddle the care of many Americans, so hopefully this will provide solutions to some of the larger issues. One key aspect is the fact that all Americans will have the opportunity to have health care. This will be advantageous in many aspects: Prescription medications, preventative care, and treatment.

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