Category Archives: Health reform
A new commentary by Dr. Georges Benjamin, president of the American Public Health Association, looks at how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is impacting public health and how it will create new opportunities for better health for more people across the nation.
The Affordable Care Act affects all 10 essential public health services, writes Dr. Benjamin in the commentary published by the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Benjamin says the ACA will influence the public health system in three major ways:
- Expanded insurance coverage will impact how public health departments offer clinical services: Governmental public health agencies currently providing clinical services may transfer cases to the private sector, such as routine childhood vaccinations.
- New care delivery models offer opportunities to integrate public health principles and enhance requirement for hospitals to define and utilize beneficial community efforts: Public health practitioners will have the opportunity to share their expertise on assessing the health of populations, implementing community and broad-based solutions, and evaluating the outcomes of these solutions.
- Public health services can reach more people: Programs and services such as, home visiting and other maternal child health programs and specialized behavioral health services will be made available to the general population, in addition to programs on prevention and protection.
“There is a lot to learn as we make this transformation to achieve better health and better value for our health investment. A transformed public health system is an essential element of that change,” Dr. Benjamin comments in the report.
>>Read the commentary.
On July 12, a standing room only crowd of local health leaders took part in a 2012 NACCHO Annual Meeting session on the implications of the recent favorable Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As the law faces continued uncertainty amid renewed legal challenges and the forthcoming national election, proponents were urged to continue educating stakeholders about the work of public health. Laura Hanen, who leads government and public affairs for NACCHO, advised that public health needs increasingly to have a seat at table in health policy decision making at the national, state and local level–or risk being on it.
Lillian Shirley, director of the Multnomah County (Oregon) Health Department and immediate past president of NACCHO, urged health department leaders in attendance that in addition to being more vocal about the return on investment of public health, they need be more forthright about the added value they can bring to local decision making in areas such as demonstrating evidence, measuring and evaluating, spreading best practices, and collecting data that can inform policy decisions. “We have been invited to be part of the solution,” Shirley said. “We shouldn’t be shy about the skills we bring.”
During the question and answer period, many participants voiced confusion they were feeling in the early stages of the law’s implementation. One raised the question of whether to continue to focus on clinical services, an issue that many health departments are grappling with now amidst budget cuts and increased partnership with health systems. Another participant asked whether local health departments will have to address complaints from residents of the communities they serve if some parts of the law are not upheld, such as a requirement that many companies establish dedicated break rooms and break time for nursing mothers. Hanen said that the answers to such questions will in many cases be dictated by policies set at the local level, and advised health department leaders to continue to be assertive–but cautious at the same time. “We can’t predict [everything] at this point.”
>>View a list of resources compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation regarding the Supreme Court decision on the ACA.
>>Check out other outlets to follow with analysis of the decision.