In the midst of failed fiscal cliff negotiations and generally bad news coming out of Washington, there was a victory for Obamacare today: the Supreme Court denied a request for an emergency injunction from Hobby Lobby to avoid implementing the mandatory contraception coverage part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) going into effect on January 1. Starting next week, Hobby Lobby and companies like it will face fines for failing to offer insurance that covers contraception, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Hobby Lobby is one of about forty companies that have filed suit against this part of the law, and the Supreme Court will be waiting on lower courts to determine these cases. So it's not the last we'll hear of this battle, but it's a reminder that Obamacare is for the most part here to stay, and the contraception provision is only of one of the several pieces of the ACA about to go into effect.
Earlier this month, states faced a deadline to either have plans for their health insurance exchanges set up, or to have the government do it for them. Ironically, the red states (including Texas) are the ones who will now have Uncle Sam running their insurance exchanges, since they refused to set up their own out of opposition to the law. Only eighteen states had actually set up their own exchanges prior to the deadline.
According to the Washington Post: “States that have relinquished control may not end up determining things like how oversight of the exchanges would work, how consumers are represented and what standards to apply to health plans that will be sold on them.” Given Texas's record on health care, this could be a good thing for the state. And by 2014, anyone – employed or unemployed – will be able to access affordable insurance through open enrollment in the exchanges.
Other changes going into effect in the new year include coverage for more preventative care through Medicaid, payment bundling to increase efficiency, and expanding Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. Something to look forward to in the new year: Obamacare is still really happening.