Health Reform is Three Months Old: What to Cover Next

Published on
June 22, 2010

So it's been three months already since health reform passed, and journalists around the country are still looking for ways to keep this story fresh. Earlier, I wrote about lessons you can learn from some top  Washington DC health reporters, with an eye on Sept. 23, when the next set of new provisions takes effect.

Here's another set of ideas coming out of a Monday press briefing for California reporters.

1. Who's being affected right now?  Young adults, and kids and adults with preexisting conditions. What difference have these reforms made in the lives of people in your community? Talk to recent college grads and their parents about their health insurance status – are they able to . Tap parents groups for kids with diabetes and other chronic diseases to find families with kids with preexisting conditions.

2. Small businesses: now offering insurance? Employers with fewer than XX employees can now get up to a 35 percent tax credit for the money they spend on workers' health insurance premiums. Who's doing this in your community, and how is it working? Can lower-wage employees afford their share of premiums?

3. Retiree healthcare. Starting next week, money should start flowing  to businesses and unions to help cover the costs of covering people who retire early between the ages of 55 and 65, when Medicare kicks in. Check in with large employers in your community to see if they're tapping these funds, and how early retirees are being affected. Will their premiums go down?

4. State budget cuts vs. national largesse. There's a deep tension right now between state and local health budget cuts and hundreds of millions of incoming federal health reform dollars. Who are the winners and losers in your state? In California, community clinics stand to gain up to xx million in federal grants while county mental health services and public health nurses are being cut in many counties. How aggressive are your state and local officials in applying for federal health reform grants? Under health reform, states must demonstrate "maintenance of effort," which means that they can't cut certain health programs if they want to get federal health reform money. (Check out Families USA's fact sheet on maintenance of effort for more detail). How is your state handling that tension? Can it demonstrate maintenance of effort?

More resources:

Health Access: Health Reform Three-Month Status Report

Families USA: Maintenance of Effort Requirements Under Health Reform Fact Sheet

Los Angeles Times: Pressure rising on healthcare long before overhaul takes effect

Accidental Wonk: Keeping Health Reform Coverage Fresh: Lessons From Top Journalists

Alliance for Health Reform: What's Next? Reporting on Health Reform Between Now and 2014