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Story ideas for health care reform’s second anniversary

Health care

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In a couple of weeks we’ll mark the two-year anniversary of what politicians so lovingly refer to as “Obamacare,” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.  The president signed the bill into law on March 23, 2010, and with the two-year mark coming up you might want to delve around for related stories on your beats.

Even if you don’t cover health care, there are myriad angles in the implementation of the law, assuming it survives a challenge in the Supreme Court, which is set to hear arguments later this month. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the court has slated six hours for oral arguments – the most for any case in 45 years – over the last week in March.

Meanwhile, beats from small business to technology to personal finance to real estate to financial services can find plenty of angles.  Heck, even the National Retail Federation has a big health care reform portal on its website, and just last month hosted a roundtable on the matter.  The NRF on behalf of its members particularly dreads the employer mandate part of the PPAC, which requires workplaces with more than 50 workers to offer health insurance.  Here’s an interesting TIME take on the mandate including a look at how a similar mandate is working out in San Francisco. 

Not matter your beat, you can take the pulse of employers and ask what they’re doing to prepare for compliance, which assuming the law is upheld will kick in on January 1, 2014.   Are companies shopping for plans, adjusting budgets and headcount forecasts, adding staffers to administer plans (or hiring consultants), looking for cost savings elsewhere to offset health plan expenses or otherwise evaluating the effects? 

Speaking of when provisions of the law kick in, peruse this excellent Kaiser Family Foundation implementation timeline on its Health Reform Source site.  The interactive timeline is easy to use and well-footnotes; a read-through will help you find nuggets applicable to the companies you cover, or consumer/personal finance stories.  You could even use the timeline to plan a series or package.

Here’s an interesting article from The Hill noting that “insurers are terrified” that the SCOTUS will strike down the individual mandate (which will fine consumers via the IRS for failing to buy coverage) and keep the other provisions which require, for example, free preventative care that drives up costs for insurers.  With a smaller pool of premium-payers, sans the individual mandate that would spread risk throughout a broader population, premiums would skyrocket.  Talk to insurers, insurance regulators, health care systems, physicians and others in your area about what they see happening depending on the fate of the individual mandate.

Another gold mine for story ideas is the National Conference of State Legislatures’ health care reform database; you can check out health-care related bills proposed by your state’s lawmakers and follow the trail to lobbyists and other industry interests; many in the samples I checked out were bills proposed in response to looming health care reform provisions.

Don’t forget about the compliance industry too; from lawyers to consultants to benefits experts, many companies stand to reap revenue from helping employers, health care systems , medical practices and others comply with provisions of the law.  Just Google “health care reform compliance” and your geographical area for leads.

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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