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Benchmark Laws in U.S. Health Care

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Since the turn of 20th century, the United States health care system has undergone a lot of reform which were all aimed at making it more accessible and affordable to the people. The federal government has enacted several acts which are meant to bring positive changes to the health care system.  In this paper we are going to benchmark a number of health care acts enacted by the government. We are also going to review the impact of every act to the country health care system.

Benchmark Laws

  • Hill Burton Act of 1946

Hill Burton Act was passed by Senator Harold Burton and Lister Hill in 1946. The research was meant to provide grants and loans in order to improve the physical facilities of the national wide hospital system.  The act was to provide money for every state to have 4.5 bed capacities for every 1,000 people.  The act also came with strict requirements in which the facilities receiving the grants were not to discriminate any one based on race, color, religions or creed.  Furthermore, they were required to provide uncompensated care for 20 years.  Although this act did not gain complete compliance it improved the health care system by lifting health care facilities, eliminating discrimination and provision of free health care services. (Newman, 2008)

  • Oregon Death with Dignity Act (1994)

The Oregon death with dignity Act legalized physician assisted dying but with some restrictions.  This act had a great impact on the health care system of the country since it became the first act which permitted terminally ill patients to determine the time for their death.  Under the law Oregon adult who has been diagnosed with terminal disease which may kill them within six months can request the physician through writing to be given a lethal dose of medication in order to end their life. However participation is voluntary for both physician and the patient and the request has to be confirmed by not less than two witness and one should not be related to the patient, entitled to patient property, a patient physician,  or health care facility employee.  Although there have been some patient who have used the law, many are still skeptical about it. For example in Oregon, it was only 341 patients out of 98,942 patients who died of terminal illness who used the law to end their life. (Howell, 2006)

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (1996)

Famously referred to as HIPAA Act, it was enacted in 1996. Tile I protect the health insurance coverage for worker who lost change their jobs or lose their jobs, together with their families.  Title II which is also referred to as Administrative Simplification provision calls for the establishment of national electronic health care transactions and identifiers for all the health care providers, insurance planes and the employers. It also addresses the privacy of the data and its security. This Act has provided heath care coverage for employees and their families who lose their jobs. It can also be credited with having laid down the structure for establishment of national electronic health care transactions system. (HHS.gov, 2008)

  • Balanced Budget Act of 1997

For the first time, the act provided for the use of federal funds to provide insurance coverage for the uninsured especially children. The act also provided flexibility for states to provide insurance coverage within the act. The act committed more than $24 billion over five yeas to improve children insurance coverage. This act has had a great impact in the health care system with the increase coverage of children through SCHIP. However there is need to increase funds for the program and make eligibility criteria more flexible to admit more children. (Public Law, 1998)

  • Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (2003)

This act provided the largest change in the Medicare program for the last 38 years since it was established. This act established a prescription drug benefit for all the Medicare beneficiaries. It also created new Medicare Advantage program which replaced Mediare+Choice program.  The program which was started in 2006 is voluntary and members would pay monthly premiums once they enroll. The act has had a great impact on the health care system as it has reduced the cost of drugs and has seen the government increase the House budge allocation to 1.2 trillion for the next 10 years. (The White House, 2008)


Howell, J. (2006). Death with Dignity Act 2006 Annual Report.  State of Oregon

HHS.gov, (2008). Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Center for Medicare and Medicaid services

The White House, (2008). Fact Sheet: Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. Retrieved 11th January 2009 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/12/20031208-3.html

Public Law, (1998). Balanced Budget Act. Retrieved 11th January 2009 from https://www.socialworkers.org/archives/advocacy/updates/1997/grbudget.htm

Newman, R. (2008). Hill  Burton Act. Retrieved 11th January 2009 from http://www.enotes.com/major-acts-congress/hill-burton-act

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