Like it or not, it appears the Healthcare Reform Act is here to stay. President Barack Obama's reelection and Democrats' control of the senate give the law's opponents little hope of repealing it. Now federal officials are preparing to roll out the controversial parts of the law.
Experts say healthcare reform could have some big benefits for Shelby County. Uncompensated medical services cost the local economy 1.3 billion dollars a year. A report by the University of Memphis' Methodist Le Bonheur Center for Healthcare Economics suggests that number could be cut in half by the law.
More than 74 thousand uninsured in Shelby County could get health insurance through Health care exchanges and Medicaid expansion. But those numbers could be significantly lower if the state turns down portions of the law.
Dr. Cyril Chang, a University of Memphis professor and healthcare economics expert, has studied healthcare reform's impact on the region.
"I think we should follow the conventional wisdom that if you cannot beat them, you might as well join them," Chang said.
Leaders in Tennessee are facing some decisions on how to handle the healthcare reform law. Governor Bill Haslam is weighing whether the state should run its own on-line health insurance exchange or defer to the federal government. The state will also have to decide if it will expand Medicaid.
According to Dr. Chang it will cost the state either way.
"Most of the costs that will be incurred would be unavoidable," Chang said. "In other words, the costs, we're stuck and so we might as well get the benefits of the reform."
Healthcare reform has been the law of the land since 2010. But some of the more controversial parts of the law go into effect in 2014. The federal government will be explaining healthcare insurance exchanges, the individual mandate for insurance coverage and expanded Medicaid coverage.
Businesses will also have to navigate new regulations in 2014.
"It will have quite a bit of impact on businesses, especially small businesses," Dr. Change said.
Some businesses that provide healthcare insurance coverage to employees will be eligible for tax incentives. While other businesses that do not provide insurance coverage will face penalties.
Another challenge for Shelby County will be the availability of primary care providers. Experts are suggesting the region doesn't have enough healthcare professionals to handle the influx of newly insured residents.