State Health Law Implementation: Race to the Starting Line – Philadelphia

The Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Alliance for Health Reform on Tuesday, June 18 held a special event to explore the challenges that Pennsylvania and New Jersey face this year leading up to the 2014 health law changes.

This year the giant health law begins to move into its most climactic phase. Tens of millions of people are about to get health insurance, and this meeting will help reporters understand the epic challenges ahead. The health law requires that everyone carry insurance by 2014, and new, online exchanges are meant to help individuals and small businesses obtain coverage. About half of states – including Pennsylvania and New Jersey – are leaving the creation and operation of the exchanges to the federal government. Insurers have begun to submit plan types and proposed premiums to federal regulators, and details are expected to be publicly announced by August. Enrollment is planned to start in October with the first plans going live in January, 2014.

Yet another big change is the expansion of Medicaid, which states can accept or reject. New Jersey has chosen to expand its program, while Pennsylvania will not.

These developments mark the biggest changes in health insurance in more than a generation and will raise many questions. How will federal insurance exchanges work? Will they even get off the ground by the Oct. 1 deadline? Will people know how to enroll? Will the plans be affordable? Without the Medicaid expansion, many of Pennsylvania’s estimated 1.4 million uninsured may be unable to participate. What does this mean for them and for the financial health of hospitals? With so many more people covered in both states, will there be a shortage of physicians, as many experts expect?

This briefing, held in Philadelphia, at the offices of the Philadelphia Inquirer,helped reporters answer these questions fortheir readers, viewers and listeners.

Panelists:

·Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation and former Obama administration official

· Gerald Katz, owner, Healthcare Management Consulting

· Uwe Reinhardt, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University

· Karl Stark, health editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Moderator: Marilyn Werber Serafini, communications director and health policy advisor at the Alliance for Health Reform, a nonpartisan, nonprofit health policy group in Washington, DC

This briefing was sponsored by AHCJ, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.