The most substantial terms and conditions of the Affordable Care Act do not take effect until 2014 with the scheduled implementation of the individual mandate and insurance co-ops.
Some noteworthy developments will occur in 2012, however, the most important of which is arguments before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the mandate.
The court is scheduled to hear arguments March 26-28, with a ruling expected in June. It has reserved 5 1/2 hours over three days for the case, an unusually large amount of time.
The first day of arguments will focus on whether the court has authority to rule on the law before 2015, when penalties for not having insurance would go into effect. The second day will focus on the core issue of the constitutionality of the mandate.
The third day will focus on two issues: whether, if the mandate is deemed unconstitutional, the rest of the law can stand; and whether the expansion of Medicaid as called for by the law is a violation of states’ rights even though federal subsidies would account for 90% of the expansion.
Meanwhile, several details of healthcare reform are scheduled to begin in 2012, according to a timeline on the Healthcare.gov website.
Immediately: Incentives for physicians and other healthcare providers to form Accountable Care Organizations went into effect Jan. 1. In ACOs, providers can achieve better coordination and improved quality in patient care, help prevent disease and illness and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Participating providers in ACOs that provide high-quality care and reduce costs to the healthcare system can keep some of the money they have helped save.
March 1: Any ongoing or new federal health program must collect and report racial, ethnic and language data. The HHS secretary will use this data to help identify and reduce health disparities.
October 1: Health plans must begin adopting and implementing rules for the secure, confidential and electronic exchange of health information. According to HHS, using electronic health records will reduce paperwork and administrative burdens, cut costs, reduce medical errors and improve the quality of care.
October 1: A hospital Value-Based Purchasing program begins in Original Medicare. This program offers financial incentives to hospitals to improve the quality of care. Hospitals must report performance measures, starting with those relating to myocardial infarction, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, healthcare-associated infections and patient perception of care.