By Liz Ritonia
This post is part of a series of insights from the Waggener Edstrom Public Affairs team that looks at four key issue areas that are driving policy conversations.
President Obama’s victory paired with the Democratic control of the Senate means repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is highly unlikely, but it is possible Republican leaders in the House of Representatives will still make attempts. We can expect to see draft rules and regulations regarding some of the key provisions in ACA during the next few days. These include policy coverage requirements, health insurance exchanges and the individual coverage mandate. Some employers have focused on hiring part-time employees to circumvent anticipated penalties for not providing minimal coverage for full-time workers.
Although the big pieces of the law won’t kick in until 2014, including coverage of pre-existing conditions and the individual mandate — which has drawn large criticism from opponents of the law — there is an important deadline looming. States have until Nov. 16 to decide whether or not they will implement a health insurance exchange (required by ACA) or defer to the federal government to operate one for them. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have already opted to set up their own exchanges.
The ACA also affects Medicaid expansion. States aren’t required to expand their Medicaid programs for low-income people, although they get federal matching dollars if they do. While some red-state governors have ruled out expansion, 26 states are still seeking more flexibility with the Medicaid expansion requirements in order to consider expansion.
In Congress, while members will likely focus on oversight of the law’s implementation, they’ll also be turning to address agriculture and nutrition issues. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has committed to holding a vote to “deal with the vital legislation” in the highly debated 2012 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill will be a key part of shaping the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the food stamp program, during the next five years. Supporters tout its ability to positively affect the health of Americans, encouraging the production of fruits and vegetables and locally and sustainably raised beef and chicken. Opponents characterize the bill as incentivizing the production of high fructose corn syrup, which has been credited with contributing to obesity in the United States. Given Congress’ priority on addressing the deficit, however, it is possible the legislation won’t be passed until the spring or later in 2013.