By Hope Ditto. It has been almost a year since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but it seems that the questions and concerns surrounding it and its implementation are increasing rather than decreasing with time. From its legality to its funding, threats of repeal to promises to replace, buzz about the ACA from Wall Street to Main Street and up and down Pennsylvania Avenue has reached a fever pitch since the 112th Congress convened last month.

We have accepted that things are currently in limbo with regards to health care reform and the provisions born from the ACA, but that does not mean that those in the health care industry can call a recess until Congress can come to some sort of consensus/final decision on health care reform.

Instead, it is up to health care industry to sort through the facts from the rumors, clarify the ambiguities and quantify the results – all while knowing full well any question they just answer or problem they just solved could be reversed, revised or removed altogether overnight.

Considering all of the challenges and uncertainties facing the health care sector, it seems that Academy Health’s annual National Health Policy Conference (NHPC), this year themed “Putting Health Care Reform to Work” came at just the right time. The conference, held the past two days in downtown Washington, brought together experts from all areas of the health care industry – academics, insurance executives, physicians and other stakeholders – to discuss the impacts of the ACA, how to implement them and what to expect from future provisions (both the ones currently slated to be implemented and those being discussed under “repeal and replace”).

Highlights of the conference included plenary sessions with leaders and policymakers on the Hill and at a number of health agencies and organizations, breakout sessions on topics ranging from innovation in health care to the impact of ACA on various populations (i.e. Medicaid and CHIP, employers, etc.) and everything in between. There were also meaningful panel discussions on health care reform, the future of the industry and how various stakeholders are approaching policy in the interim. More than anything, though, the conference brought together people from all over the health care industry and initiated a dialogue about how disparate entities are approaching the many curve balls presented to them in the wake of ACA’s passing.

While nobody – not even a combined entity encompassing over 700 leaders in the health care industry – knows what lies ahead for health care reform and the Affordable Care Act, gatherings like NHPC offer unique insight as to how those making the tough decisions are approaching this developing situation, and preparing for whatever results from it. While there are disagreements and discrepancies, debates and deliberations, it is heartening to see firsthand that the tough questions are being asked and the “what if” scenarios are being considered by those with possibly the greatest ability to directly impact our lives – those providing us care (either directly or by funding it).

Check the NPHC website soon for links to webcasts of selected plenary sessions, which will be posted as they become available.

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