Now that President Barack Obama has signed a law into effect that finalizes his health care overhaul, the next step is to determine how soon implementation — beginning at the state and local levels — will take place.

But with legal challenges, including a slew of lawsuits already lining up in many jurisdictions, several of the bill’s provisions probably won’t become effective for a while.

Nevertheless, the nation’s capital is way ahead of the game, according to a spokesman for At-large Councilman David Catania, chairman of the Council Committee on Health.

“We’re actually huge winners with this new legislation because we are already so far beyond what the legislation calls for,” said Ben Young. “They’re talking about bringing states up to 133 percent coverage of the poverty level, but the District of

Columbia is up to 200 percent for all adults for both Medicaid and non-Medicaid.”
Young said because the District is so far beyond places like Virginia and Maryland, the city will be able to assist those previously ineligible for Medicaid and receive a 90 percent match for doing so.

“It will be a huge money-saver for the District because we’re already spending—for a decent number of people—all local dollars which we’re essentially going to get 90 percent of what we’re already spending reimbursed by the federal government,” Young said. “It’s still a couple years off, but the effect will free up money so that the city can expand even further.”

He added that over the past five years, the District has cut its number of  uninsured individuals in half, and that children (having tied for second place with Massachusetts) will have one of the lowest numbers for uninsured young people.

“We haven’t studied the federal bill closely but our understanding is the items that will be implemented most immediately are insurance provisions, meaning that there will be no pre-existing conditions exemptions, rate exchanges and things like that,” Young said. “It’s all federal law, therefore, our local insurance regulations will have to reflect that.”

Obama’s  $940 billion health care reform bill generally expands coverage to more than 32 million uninsured Americans, and while some provisions related to Medicaid Part D coverage and banning lifetime limits on coverage are set to go into immediate effect, other provisions could take as long as a decade to implement. Additionally, the {Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act}, which President Obama signed on March 30, presents a series of changes to the bill enacted last week, including stripping away several unpopular provisions.

The new legislation was the second of two steps needed for the Democratic-led House and Senate to approve a universal health care package, and as Obama signed the measure this week at Northern Virginia Community College,

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep.  Barbara Lee, D-Calif., noted it was an honor to be in attendance for the historic signing.

She added that the legislation, which also makes higher education more affordable for minorities, contains several key provisions sought by CBC members such as increased support for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), minority-serving institutions and community colleges.

“This bill is a critical down-payment toward the future prosperity of millions of Americans and our nation as a whole,” Lee said.