New Healthcare Reform Initiatives Becoming Effective in 2011

(Columbia, S.C., January 5, 2011) As South Carolina rings in the New Year, new healthcare initiatives from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are becoming effective in 2011. According to the Affordable Care Act Implementation Initiative, these changes will directly affect South Carolinians. A total of 21 provisions are scheduled to take effect.

A comprehensive list of changes implemented by the ACA may be found courtesy of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation at http://healthreform.kff.org/timeline.aspx. South Carolinians will be affected in several ways:

Helping people to stay healthy

Multiple provisions of law promote prevention of disease. The federal government is authorized to issue grants totaling $200 million to small businesses with fewer than 100 workers that start wellness programs focused on nutrition, smoking cessation, physical fitness and stress management. Also, Medicare enrollees will be able to get many preventive health services – such as vaccinations and cancer screenings – for free starting in January. Medicare beneficiaries whose doctors set up a “personalized prevention plan” for them will receive free annual wellness exams. The wellness plan includes a review of the individuals’ medical history and a screening schedule for the next decade.

Lower prescription costs for seniors

According to AARP, the law begins to close the Medicare doughnut hole and prescription drug costs could shrink $700 for a typical Medicare beneficiary in 2011. The National Council on Aging estimates the savings could reach $1,800 for some. Starting in January, drug companies will give seniors 50 percent off brand drugs while in the gap, excluding those low-income people who already get subsidies. Generics will also be cheaper.

Increases access to primary care for seniors

As of January 1, 2011, Medicare is increasing payments for primary care by 10 percent through the end of 2015. It is an incentive for doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and others to see the increased numbers of seniors and disabled people covered by Medicare. Those practitioners providing primary care as at least 60% of their services will qualify.

Nutritional Labeling

ACA requires disclosure of the nutritional content of standard menu items at chain restaurants with 20 or more locations and owners of 20 or more vending machines. This means that consumers will be able to make informed choices based on calorie information on menus, menu boards and drive through signs. Restaurants must also provide brochures with detailed nutritional information.

Fighting hospital infections

About 1.7 million patients pick up life-threatening, but preventable, infections at hospitals, according to a study earlier this year in the Archives of Internal Medicine. While Medicare and many private insures already ban payments for treating many of these infections, starting in July Medicaid will stop paying for treatment of some hospital-acquired infections.

The Affordable Care Act Implementation Initiative is a public-private collaborative with the goal of informing implementation of the Affordable Care Act and facilitating successful applications for funding opportunities available to our state.

Media Contacts:

Frank Knapp
SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce
Affordable Care Act Implementation Initiative
Chair – Information Dissemination and Communication Workgroup
sbchamber@scsbc.org
803-252-5733

Megan Weis
Associate Director – Outreach and Program Development
South Carolina Public Health Institute
Affordable Care Act Implementation Initiative
megan@scphi.org
803-734-1602

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