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What’s ahead: Health reform provisions for 2012 Posted: January 3rd, 2012

By Maryalene LaPonsie

It's a new year, which means the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is one year closer to being fully implemented. Unlike 2011 -- which saw significant provisions of the act phased in at the start of the year -- only one provision went into effect on the first day of 2012.

In total, four health reform changes are planned for the next 12 months. The government has backed off on a fifth provision -- the creation of a long-term care insurance program.

This year's initiatives include:

  1. Incentives for accountable care organizations: The government will begin providing incentives for physicians to join together and form accountable care organizations. ACOs are designed to coordinate care for individual patients across a variety of care settings. Effective date: January 2012
  2. New data collection: Any ongoing or new federal health program will be required to collect and report data on race, ethnicity and language. This information is intended for use by the Department of Health and Human Services to identify and reduce disparities in care. Effective date: March 2012
  3. Electronic billing and health records: The ACA requires health insurance plans and health professionals to move away from paper records and begin implementing electronic health records instead. According to the government, the electronic exchange of health information will reduce costs and improve patient care. October 2012
  4. Incentives for improved care for Medicare patients: A Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program will be implemented to reward hospitals that provide quality care to patients enrolled in original Medicare. The financial incentives will be based upon publically reported data on measures such as heart attacks, infection rates and patient perception of care. October 2012

One of the most discussed changes expected in 2012 was the creation of the Community Living Assistance and Support Services (CLASS) program. This was planned as a voluntary long-term care insurance program that would provide cash benefits to disabled adults. However, HHS issued a report in October 2011 stating it was not feasible to create the program in 2012.