What’s Up for Healthcare and Obesity After the Election?

November 9, 2012 — With President Obama back for another term, the Senate still in the hands of Democrats, and the House still in the hands of Republicans, it’s a good time to look at what this week’s election means to healthcare and obesity.

The first implication, of course, is that the Affordable Care Act will not be repealed or largely dismantled. House Speaker John Boehner was pretty direct in saying that the election makes it clear that “Obamacare is the law of the land.”

However, the act can still be modified. It was passed using a method called budget reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority of senators rather than a super majority (61). This means the act can be modified in another budget reconciliation, but only financial matters – the money to expand Medicaid, for example – can be altered, not the material parts of insurance coverage, such as the removal of pre-existing conditions for adults.

In addition, states that waited until after the election to indicate whether or not they would set up health insurance exchanges on their own or have the federal government do it now have about a week before the November 16 deadline for responding. Congressional Quarterly reported that state officials expect HHS will extend the deadline.

Some states have made progress setting up their exchange, including choosing a benchmark plan for coverage. Obesity screening and intensive behavioral counseling must be a part of all plans, since anything rated A or B by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force must be included. For some states, that may be the only coverage for obesity treatment offered.

Of the 26 benchmark plans chosen, only 11 cover bariatric surgery and only 6 cover at least some form of a weight loss program. Obesity advocates continue to push states for more coverage and for access to treatment from a wider array of healthcare providers.

Read more on the election’s impact on healthcare in the New York Times here and in the Washington Post here.