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Health Reform, One Year Later: Reporting Resources and Story Ideas

Health Reform, One Year Later: Reporting Resources and Story Ideas

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Health reform. Has it really been a year already?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law last year on March 23, and both supporters and critics are using its first anniversary today to loudly broadcast their viewpoints.

As the Washington Post's Amy Goldstein and N.C. Aizenman write:

The choreography (of events) coast to coast is a birthday party, of sorts, to mark the year that has elapsed since President Obama signed into law the broadest changes to the nation's health-care system in nearly half a century. But the commemoration is as much a strategy for image-shaping as a reflection of the new reality on the ground.

A year after a titanic partisan battle in Congress yielded a 2,073-page statute, the law exists in what one seasoned health-care lobbyist called "a very weird place. It's like we have two worlds."

Those worlds, of course, are the one in which Republicans are committed to repealing or defunding PPACA, and the one in which states already are creating health insurance exchanges and other machinery needed to carry out the law as it now stands. The war between these worlds is likely to continue until the 2012 presidential election.  

Against this backdrop, add in considerable confusion among Americans about the provisions of the health care reform law and whether it has already been repealed (it has not, despite numerous legal challenges). More than half of Americans surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation say they do not have enough information about how health reform will affect them (despite massive media coverage and outreach efforts by advocates and government.

Where should you stories weigh in? I'd argue for somewhere between the rosy, cozy quilt of universal health coverage and new health care jobs that reform advocates envision, and the nation-destroying, job-killing Obamacare program of socialized medicine that Republicans passionately are trying to repeal. Retain your skepticism of statistics that are trotted out by reform's supporters and critics; both sides have shaded the truth, as Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post reports.

Here's a useful Kaiser Health News round-up of coverage of first-year health reform stories, and are some ideas for stories of your own as health reform heads into its second year. I'll have more for you in the weeks and months ahead. Got more ideas? Share them in the comments below.

1. Interview young 20-somethings about their health insurance. Are any benefiting from the health reform provision that allows them to stay on their parents' plan until age 26? What do they plan to do after they turn 26? What does being insured – or uninsured – mean to them?

2. Contrast two small businesses in your community: one that has used new tax credits to help provide insurance for employees and another that has decided against doing so. Why did they make these decisions?

3. In many communities, people newly eligible for health insurance or help in paying for it may not speak English well or at all. How are doctors, hospitals and other health care providers in your community going to provide translation services and culturally competent care for this new influx of patients?

4. What's happening with insurers' rate increase requests in your state? In California, Blue Shield abandoned and Anthem reduced planned rate increases that had prompted howls from consumers and scrutiny from state regulators.

5. How many people have signed up for your state's or the federal government's "last-resort" high-risk insurance pool for people with pre-existing conditions? Are the premiums too expensive? Here's an interactive map that can tell you about your state's offerings. The number of people nationwide who have signed up so far is relatively small, perhaps because of premium cost.

Here are some more resources for your reporting:

Kaiser Family Foundation Health Reform Implementation Timeline: This timeline can help you keep track of important dates for when various provisions take effect.

Consumers Union (which supports health reform) has published a comprehensive guide to how health reform affects consumers and their health insurance.

National Conference of State Legislatures' State Legislative Tracking Database on Health Reform: This database can help you track how your state is implementing health reform through health insurance exchanges, regulations, federal waivers and other mechanisms.

Photo credit: Will Clayton via Flickr

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