By David W. Hilgers, Brown McCarroll, L.L.P., Austin, TX
Healthcare reform: its déjà vu all over again. Once again we are in limbo. Once again a monumental effort to change our healthcare system may dissipate into the netherworld of failed legislative history. After months of negotiation, argument and political maneuvering, we have a transformational reform structure detailed in two similar but different bills; one from the House and one from the Senate. Yet the twists of political fate have left the outcome of this effort extremely uncertain. Because of this slight political shift in the division of the Senate and the arcane and restrictive rules of Congress, the passage of global health reform has become increasingly unlikely since the middle of January. However, even if these bills fail, the impact of this legislative effort will resonate for years. Within the provisions of this legislation are a treasure trove of healthcare concepts and programs that will likely form the basis of healthcare legislative and regulatory efforts for the next several years.
One of the major responsibilities and goals of the Health Law Section is to keep our members apprised of the future direction of healthcare reform and change, much of which will be driven by federal policy changes. To that end, we are not ceasing our tracking of healthcare reform even though it looks like the legislation’s demise is imminent. As you know from past Chair reports, Andy Demetriou has been chairing the Access to Healthcare Task Force whose mandate was to analyze and report on the progress of reform. The results of that have been several iPod reports on the progress of the legislation and presentations at the Washington Summit on the contents of the legislation. Another report is planned at the Emerging Issues Conference in Phoenix on the 18th of February. After recent discussions we have concluded that this Task Force should not be disbanded because of the pending failure of the legislation.
Instead, the Task Force will be reorganized and restructured to adjust to a new mandate. Despite the present failure of reform, most healthcare attorneys believe that the system will have to change. This change will be ultimately driven by costs and steady erosion of healthcare coverage for America’s population. The longer these changes are postponed, the more likely that this change will be cathartic and precipitous. In order to fulfill its responsibilities to its members, the Health Law Section needs to remain current on the direction and content of these changes. Thus, the Access to Healthcare Task Force’s new mandate will be to track on a current basis all aspects of this system reform or change. Initially, the Task Force will follow the future path of the concepts and programs included in the recent Senate and House bills. Beyond that initial role, the Task Force will serve as a longer term group to keep the ABA Health Law Section members informed of potential legislative and regulatory changes which could change the structure of the healthcare industry. It will draw upon the expertise and knowledge of the Section’s Interest Groups, but it will serve as the central repository and evaluator for potential industry changing reforms. Hopefully, this will provide a beneficial resource to the members of the Section. We also believe that this will provide an opportunity for our members to participate in this process so that they can remain up to date on the future of healthcare.
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