The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to simply as the ACA or Obamacare, was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The ACA is intended to expand access to health insurance coverage for millions of uninsured Americans by expanding eligibility for Medicaid and developing health insurance marketplaces where uninsured persons may be eligible for subsidies to make private health plans more affordable. While expanding access to health insurance is a big part of the ACA, there are many other purposes of the law, including provisions intended to reform the health care delivery system to produce better patient outcomes at lower cost.
AOTA was very active in the legislative process leading up to the passage and signing of the ACA, working to achieve victories such as inclusion of rehabilitation and habilitation in the essential health benefits package. AOTA has also been monitorting the regulatory process at the federal and state levels as the ACA has been implemented, and has been advocating for occupational therapy practitioners and consumers. The dynamic environment created by health care reform creates opportunities, but vigilant monitoring of implementation activities and carefully executed advocacy efforts are necessary to ensure occupational therapy is valued and protected in the future.
Please also see the Health Care Reform Implementation page on AOTA's website at: http://www.aota.org/Advocacy-Policy/Health-Care-Reform.aspx
There has been a lot of news coverage recently anticipating the launch of the ACA's health insurance exchanges next week. With the ACA remaining a political hot potato, there is also a substantial amount of misinformation floating around. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and other entities like WebMD, are trying to provide resources that enable people to understand the changes that are coming. Even if the political rhetoric were set aside, it would be challenging for health care providers and consumers to understand all the implications of the ACA for their practices and families. Still, it is important to remember that many aspects of our health care system currently are difficult to understand, and believe it or not, after the kinks are worked out, some of the ACA's changes will likely simplify things, especially for people who purchase insurance as individuals. This article from Kaiser Health News does a good job comparing the different ways Missouri and Illinois are approaching ACA implementation. What's happening in those states is probably representative of what's occurring in many others. For more information about how health insurance exchanges impact OT practitioners and consumers, check out this earlier blog post.