Navigating health reform’s ‘Twilight Zone’

As expected, the Senate on Wednesday rejected Republicans’ attempt to repeal the health care reform law. The vote split along party lines.

The Senate did approve an amendment of a reform provision that requires businesses to file an IRS form for every vendor with which they conduct transactions worth $600 or more. The requirement was seen as burdensome for small businesses.

The vote against repeal, meanwhile, won’t end efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act.

A U.S. District judge’s ruling Monday declaring the reform law unconstitutional has moved some states to slow down their work on implementing provisions of the overhaul.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, Republican governors in Florida and Wisconsin have interpreted the judge’s decision to mean that the reform law is no longer in force. Florida took it a step further. The state is rejecting the $1 million federal grant it received to study the creation of a health insurance exchange that would be established in 2014, under the reform law.

But Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pointed to the 700 residents in his state with serious medical problems who already found coverage under the reform law. “Who goes to these people,” the governor said in an interview with the Washington Post, “and tells them, ‘Sorry, a judge in Florida has decided we now need to put you out in the cold?’ ”

So where does this reform activity leave Georgia?

The state was one of 26 joining the lawsuit that led to the judge in Florida striking down the reform law.

Yet Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, a health reform opponent, told Georgia Health News that the state should still pursue the work on an insurance exchange as if the court rulings against the law in Florida and Virginia never happened.

Gov. Nathan Deal, also a Republican, agrees, as the New York Times reports. “We’ll be required to move forward until such time relief is granted or an appellate decision is finalized,” Deal said. “It’s a victory, but not a complete victory.”

‘’We will continue to work diligently on two fronts,’’ Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said Thursday. The first is pursuing the lawsuit to the Supreme Court, Robinson said. “On the other, we’ll prepare for any eventuality,’’ he added. “ We’ll continue work on the exchanges, for example.’’

Bloomberg News reported that most states aren’t going to put off reform planning until the case is settled by the Supreme Court because the legal battle could drag on and leave them unprepared, according to Joy Johnson Wilson, the health policy director for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

If the reform law ultimately is upheld, and if Georgia doesn’t set up its own insurance exchange, then the federal  government will run the exchange in the state.

But the uncertainty over the law’s fate has led to a ”Twilight Zone”-like situation that makes moving forward a guessing game. That’s true not just for lawmakers but for the medical industry, as the Wall Street Journal notes.

And patients with chronic illnesses who are aided by reform are left wondering what will happen to them, the New York Times reports.