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2012 Health Care Changes

The Affordable Care Act became law on March 23, 2010.  The law’s provisions are being implemented on a timeline through January 1, 2015.  There are four new items being added in 2012.  A brief explanation of each is listed below.

Encouraging Integrated Health Systems - effective January 1, 2012:  The new law provides incentives for physicians to join together to form “Accountable Care Organizations.” In these groups, doctors can better coordinate patient care and improve the quality, help prevent disease and illness, and reduce unnecessary hospital admissions. If Accountable Care Organizations provide high quality care and reduce costs to the health care system, they can keep some of the money that they have helped save

Understanding and Fighting Health Disparities - Effective March, 2012: To help understand and reduce persistent health disparities, the law requires any ongoing or new federal health program to collect and report racial, ethnic, and language data. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will use this data to help identify and reduce disparities.

Reducing Paperwork and Administrative Costs - First regulation effective October 1, 2012: Health care remains one of the few industries that relies on paper records. The new law institutes a series of changes to standardize billing and requires health plans to begin adopting and implementing rules for the secure, confidential, electronic exchange of health information. Using electronic health records will reduce paperwork and administrative burdens, cut costs, reduce medical errors and, most importantly, improve the quality of care.

Linking Payment to Quality Outcomes - Effective for payments for discharges occurring on or after October 1, 2012: The law establishes a hospital Value-Based Purchasing program (VBP) in Original Medicare. This program offers financial incentives to hospitals to improve the quality of care. Hospital performance is required to be publicly reported, beginning with measures relating to heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, health-care associated infections, and patients’ perception of care.

One scheduled item has been withdrawn by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The law creates a voluntary long-term insurance program called “CLASS” to provide cash benefits to adults who become disabled.  But on October 14, 2011 HHS Secretary Sebelius transmitted a report and letter to Congress stating that the Department does not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time.

Source:  HSS, What’s Changing and When at



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