Top 10 Health Policy Stories of 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, we look back on some of the year's most important developments for Texas health care--and what those might tell us about what's to come in 2013 and beyond. 10. Education and health groups unite for a better Texas budget

A whole lot of health policy  gets decided at the state level, including some of the budget for health care. The two biggest items in the state budget are education and health care like Medicaid, whose recipients are overwhelmingly kids. That's why it was a big deal in September when key education groups and health interests came together to say they refused to be pitted against one another over the state budget--and that they're working together to collect signatures from Texans who agree both education and health for children matter in our state. This "cuts aren't the answer" unity is really important in the year ahead.

9. Health reform gets its day in court

As the second anniversary of passage of the Affordable Care Act came around, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about the law, and many Americans came to hear for the first time some of the key benefits of the law and what it means for countless families.

8. Cities and states succeeding at curbing child obesity

We write mostly about health care here, but some new research has found something important about children's health and public policy: smart, strategic efforts are making a difference at bringing down child obesity in many places. That's a signal we need to keep up what's working and not shrug our shoulders in the face of serious health challenges in our communities.

7. Texas Consumer Health Assistance Program closes

CHAP closed in April, which was bad enough, but then Texas also missed opportunities to continue providing hotline and other assistance to Texans who had questions about their health insurance rights and coverage. Saying farewell to Texas CHAP at a time of so much change in health care was unfortunate in 2012, but ramifications may be felt even more in the years ahead as more Texans seek out coverage options when near-universal health care kicks in in 2014 under health reform.

6. Census finds Texas makes progress in insuring kids

This year's U.S. Census report found Texas, while still having one of the nation's highest rates of uninsured children, no longer has the dubious distinction of being worst at insuring kids. The improvement came because we strengthened Texas CHIP and Medicaid, so more kids who qualify for these services can see a doctor when they need to.

5. Governor Perry says Texas won't

After the Supreme Court decided states would have some leeway in implementing parts of the Affordable Care Act, our governor declared his rejection of plans for a tailored-for-Texas exchange and an entirely-paid-for-by-the-feds-for-three-years Medicaid extension that would cover more than 1 million Texan adults, many of them low-income parents. While legislators will have the final say and many are optimistic about a better final decision ahead, the governor's early rumblings may have made it harder for some Texas families to have the security of good health care they need.

4. Texans receive $187 million in rebates from their health insurers

Thanks, Affordable Care Act!

3. Medicaid, Medicaid, Medicaid

Whether you're paying attention to the current fiscal cliff talks or hearing about 600 Texans taking to the Capitol to make their voices heard on this subject, Medicaid was a hot topic this year. As we noted above, it already helps millions of Texas kids see a doctor and could help 1-2 million more low-income adults soon, if Texas agrees. Adding fuel to the Medicaid-media fire: two major studies out of Harvard University this year found Medicaid has major benefits for the populations it serves and it also likely saves thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost each year.

2. Voters head to the ballot box

The 2012 elections mattered, as all elections do. From ensuring the Affordable Care Act can move forward thanks to President Obama's reelection to other developments that could well prove helpful to families on Medicaid, these elections' impact will be felt for years to come.

1. The Supreme Court upholds health reform

By a razor-thin margin, the court allowed the Affordable Care Act to remain the law of the land. As we have mentioned, this is a very big deal for kids, families, and Texas, especially in 2014 when the law takes full effect. Texans  are more likely to receive health and mental health care they need, because of the ACA and the court's ruling. Many families already are benefiting from things like insurer rebates, bans on "preexisting condition" barriers for children, and preventive care, including women's health care, with no co-pays--all things that would have gone away if the court had made a different call.

That's my list. What would you add or change?

Written by: Christine Sinatra, Texans Care for Children