By Jessica DeMartino, PhD, NCCN Policy Fellow
While the process has been long and challenging, President Obama has succeeded in meeting one of his top domestic priorities – health care reform. It is projected that this reform will extend health benefits to 32 million uninsured Americans at a cost of $938 billion over the next 10 years (estimates from the Congressional Budget Office). Health care reform was completed on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 with President Obama signing the budget reconciliation bill into law. The reconciliation process became necessary after the Democrats lost the Senate seat formerly held by the late Edward M. Kennedy and the subsequent inability to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Under Senate reconciliation rules, only 51 votes are needed to pass a budget reconciliation bill.
On Sunday, March 21, 2010, the House of Representatives passed the Senate-approved health care reform bill along with a budget reconciliation package. Without the “fixes” proposed by House Democrats in the budget reconciliation bill, the House would not have agreed to pass the Senate-approved health care reform bill. On Tuesday, March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Senate health care reform bill into law. The Senate then needed to approve the budget reconciliation package. Senate Republicans forced two minor provisions involving student loan funding to be stripped from the bill – changes that required the House to take up the bill a second time but had no effect on the broader health care bill that took effect Tuesday. The Senate approved the modified budget reconciliation bill and subsequently, the House also approved the reconciliation bill and sent it to President Obama to sign and enact.
Some major changes in the reconciliation package included:
Many of the provisions of the health care reform bill will not be enacted until 2014. Some immediate effects include:
Of special interest to the cancer community is the provision of the health care reform bill that will require coverage for routine patient care costs for those with cancer and life-threatening illnesses who are enrolled in clinical trials. The clinical trials coverage provision applies to private insurance plans and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.