This post was written by Ferd H. Mitchell and Cheryl C. Mitchell, Thomson Reuters authors and attorney partners at Mitchell Law Office in Spokane, WA

The coming year will be a critical one for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Professional Development Group of Thomson Reuters continues to develop new materials that will help attorneys deal with ACA issues in their practices.

The original intent of the ACA to “solve the health coverage problem” is “giving way” to less ambitious goals, under the pressure of implementation issues. Reactions to the ACA by organizations in the Health Care System have led to fundamental revisions in the program. There have been cutbacks in the changes being attempted, which are revising the original intent of the law. In this turbulent environment, attorneys are in need of constantly-updated materials.

After a year’s postponement, the large-employer “pay or play” mandate will first come into effect in 2015. More options have been opened up, allowing leeway for company decisions. Key topics are now what types of health coverage to offer; how to evaluate tradeoffs in costs and management options; and whether to “opt out” and pay the penalties that will result.

The individual mandate came into effect in 2014, but with substantial “waivered-in” options for individuals and weakening of coverage standards. Individuals without acceptable coverage in 2014—despite these allowances—will be required to pay penalties for the first time with their 2015 tax returns. The waiver options will be reduced for 2015, providing another critical test of public reactions to the ACA. Individuals still have to assess whether they have acceptable coverage; need to obtain coverage; or will choose to pay a penalty.

At the same time, the Health Benefit Exchanges must start handling new enrollments and reenrollments for 2015 on November 15, 2014. It is yet to be determined how well problems from Year 1 have been fixed, and whether major Year 2 problems will emerge.

The ACA-related activities by the Professional Development group are helping prepare attorneys for this 2015 setting. Materials in all of these areas are now available in two recent books. For additional resources on the Affordable Care Act and to order publications, visit the ACA resource page and blog postings listed under “ACA and legal practices” on the Legal Solutions blog.

Ferd H. Mitchell and his wife, Cheryl, are attorney partners at Mitchell Law Office in Spokane, WA. They are active in elder law and health law practice areas. They have been working together on programs and activities on behalf of the elderly and in health care for over 25 years. During their studies, they have visited and evaluated the health care systems of Japan and several countries in Europe to learn how the needs of the elderly are assessed and met in other countries, and they have been better able to understand the U.S. health care system and related care issues from these visits.