January 17th, 2013
Throughout the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican contenders criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a “federal take-over of health care” for its promotion of national uniformity in health coverage and access. Yet long before passage, the architects of the ACA quickly rejected a federal single payor system, or even a federal public plan to complement the private sector plans due to forceful opposition to national reform. Instead, they traveled the only politically viable road to reform: maintaining the fragmented and complex system of health care coverage, where federal and state governments as well as the private sector play pivotal roles. The ACA’s expansion of coverage is accomplished by continuing and even increasing state oversight, reinforcing the private market, and involving both employers and individuals. As enacted, therefore, the ACA’s fragmented approach to health reform is clearly not a federal take-over.
As implementation unfolds, however, the ACA’s impact on the roles of federal, state, and private actors is uncertain. Given the statute’s ambitions and complexity, uncertainty may be inevitable. Nevertheless, recent developments demonstrate that implementation may bring surprising results which, at least in some instances, are both unintended and problematic. We address two that pose particular challenges to achieving the ACA’s goals of expanding and harmonizing coverage among and between states: 1) the establishment of state exchanges, and 2) the determination of essential health benefits. We will leave the related topic of legal challenges to the so-called “employer mandate” for future discussion.Read the rest of this entry »