Croakey’s Washington correspondent, Dr Lesley Russell, has filed an update on health care reform in the US.
It seems that there are some similarities between the state of play here, and there. The same websites, the same sense that health reform has dropped from the political agenda somewhat. On the other hand, while the Obama Administration seems to be earning some credits for its work in health, it’s far from clear that the health reform push of the Rudd Government will translate into electoral kudos for the Gillard Government. We shall see…
“The Obama Administration is moving forward rapidly with implementation of the health care reforms enacted in March. The Administration has been spotlighting potentially crowd-pleasing elements as they are phased in, and as a consequence, public support for the new law is rising.
The major early coverage benefits include:
- Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ coverage until they turn 26. In 2011, an estimated 650,000 young people who would otherwise have been uninsured will gain coverage. Another 600,000 will benefit by switching from individually purchased policies to less costly, more comprehensive employer plans. The number with coverage will grow in 2012 and 2013.
- A health plan for uninsured people with pre-existing health conditions. From 200,000 to 400,000 could benefit in 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Beginning in 2014, insurers will be required to accept all applicants, regardless of medical history.
- Ending lifetime limits on coverage, and restricting annual limits. As many as 20,400 people a year hit lifetime limits. Many more – an estimated 102 million – are in plans that impose such limits and will no longer be able to do so.
- Requiring insurers to cover children with medical problems. An estimated 51,000 uninsured children are expected to gain coverage. Another 90,000 children who have been excluded for coverage for a particular condition – asthma, for example – will also benefit.
- Filling in the ‘donut hole’ – the gap in coverage for prescription drugs – for Medicare beneficiaries.
A new user-friendly website (http://www.healthcare.gov) has been unveiled to help explain the provisions in the new law and how they will affect every American.
This website also provides access to the Hospital Compare tool (http://hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/hospital-search.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1 ) which analyses and compares data about the quality of care at more than 4,700 hospitals across the country. This includes data on 44 quality measures such as how well hospitals handle conditions like heart attacks and diabetes, information about the quality of care patients with suspected heart attacks receive, and data about infection rates following outpatient surgeries.
As the various provisions come into effect, and as President Obama travels the country to highlight them, polls show that health care reform is gaining in popularity and support, despite continuing and concerted attacks from Republicans and the Tea Party Movement.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll has support for the overhaul at 48 percent – up seven percentage points over the past month. Forty-one percent of people have unfavorable views, down from 44 percent in May. A Bloomberg News poll shows that a full 61 percent of respondents don’t have interest in repealing the health care legislation that Congress passed earlier this year (47 percent want to see how it works, 14 percent say it should be left alone). Just 37 percent want the bill repealed (as is the wish of the Republican leadership).
Democrats and Republicans are now vying for advantage in the November mid-term elections and they have been fighting to shape how the public perceives the historic legislation.
Roughly a third of voters say that a candidate who voted for the health reform law will be more likely to get their vote, a third say less likely, and a third say it doesn’t really matter. These days the most pressing issues for voters are the economy and jobs.”
• Dr Lesley Russell is the Menzies Foundation Fellow at the Menzies Center for Health Policy, University of Sydney/ Australian National University and a Research Associate at the US Studies Centre, University of Sydney. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC.