Obama administration official: ACA on the right track, but education is key

Despite deadlines, costs and confusion, an Obama administration official from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and various health policy experts maintain that the Affordable Care Act has accomplished many things in its three years of existence. While it has a ways to go, they agreed that the ACA is "on the right track." 

Michael Hash of the HHS (Photos courtesy of the Alliance for Health Reform)

Michael Hash, pictured right, director of the Office of Health Reform at the HHS and former deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform, spoke at an Alliance for Health Reform Event on Friday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He talked about the ACA's accomplishments thus far and what must happen as it is further implemented. Education of the public is key, Hash said.

One thing Hash has learned throughout the ACA's period of implementation is that those who must be educated about the ACA are not a "homogenous audience."

"In order to make sure people can [benefit from] the opportunities of ACA, they need to know how. It segments into key demographic groups. They must individually be educated in ways that resonate with them, and help them where they are, and help them to understand the value of health insurance, for those who have never had it before," Hash said.

Hash and the other panelists agreed that even though the Affordable Care Act is in its third year, people don't fully understand the law. Hash touched on three things the administration is doing to help educate lawmakers, states and the public: the launch of the new Healthcare.gov, a new 24-hour call center; and outreach in states as they develop their own exchanges.

"We are on track to meet our goal," Hash said.

The government will still make a strong education effort in those states that decide to forego Medicaid expansion, he added.

Sabrina Corlette

Sabrina Corlette

Another panelist, Sabrina Corlette, a Georgetown University research professor and project director at the Center on Health Reforms at Georgetown's Health Policy Institute, said the ACA is a framework of "cooperative federalism." She said issues of compliance, affordability, access to care and aqaduacy are most important going forward for the ACA.

"The heavy lifting starts in 2014," Corlette said. "It's important to watch how many states will actually meet targets and deadlines with their own exchanges."

Janet Trautwein, CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters, spoke about the importance of employers' understanding of the new law. Whether the law ends up costing an employer more money or not, it always "seems" like it will, causing confusion about different sizes and types of organizations.

Adequately counting full-time employees is key in figuring out what kind of organization an employer is under the law, she said.

When panelists were asked about their criticisms of the law, Corlette honed in on issues of affordability and Trautwein said she fears that the state exchanges are being implemented too quickly. They all agreed that education of payers, providers and patients across all demographics is key for successful implementation.

To learn more:
- see the event page from the Alliance for Health Reform

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