This is it
After a century of battles and a year of contentious debates, U.S. healthcare is changing. So what does this all mean for you?
Hospitals, doctors and other providers view the nation’s largest overhaul of the healthcare system in nearly 50 years as a positive step—while bracing themselves for significant changes in the way they get paid and how they deliver care to patients.
After months of political wrangling, backroom negotiations, countless hearings, votes and headaches, President Barack Obama achieved closure on one of his top domestic priorities, universal healthcare reform. Amid the taunts from GOP naysayers and protests and death threats from public opponents of the legislation, the $940 billion package was approved by Congress despite some lastminute procedural delays.
The larger piece of the reform package—an $875 billion sweeping bill approved by the Senate last December—was signed into law on March 23 by Obama as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. After some parliamen- tary debate and pingponging from the House and Senate, lawmakers managed to approve a $65 billion companion bill that reflects some changes House members originally desired, such as eliminating special deals made to certain states, watering down an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, and closing Medicare’s coverage gap or so-called “doughnut hole.” Together, the two bills would cost $940 billion over 10 years, but projected cost savings in the bill would reduce the deficit by $143 billion during this time period and by $1.2 trillion for an additional 10 years, according to congressional actuaries. The aim is to cover 32 million more Americans, or about 94% of the population.
“America’s hospitals have long been committed to ensuring healthcare coverage for all. While the path to universal coverage has been long, today we are closer than ever to reaching this important goal,” said Richard Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, after the president’s historic signing of the Senate bill last week. (For more of Umbdenstock’s perspective, see Commentary, p. 25.)
Physician groups, which helped shape parts of the law despite losing out on a measure that would have scrapped the existing Medicare payment formula, said the new reform package works to strengthen the bond between doctor and patient. Frederick Turton, chairman of the Board of Regents for the American College of Physicians, highlighted a number of changes to Medicare and Medicaid that would serve to better bridge care. Some of those include new benefits for preventive services, funding for quality-of-care pilot tests, phasing out the coverage gap under the prescription drug program and more, he said.
Other changes in store for the Medicare and Medicaid program have providers well aware of the fact that reductions in their pay for federal insurance programs—as well as a new vigilance for improving the quality of
President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection
and Affordable Care Act into law
on March 23.