March 5th, 2012
In just a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Since its passage in 2010, the far-reaching federal act has been challenged by 26 states and a number of business organizations. Now, the court will hear more than six hours of oral arguments on March 26-28, deliberate for perhaps a month or longer, and then issue its decision.
Whatever the outcome, the Supreme Court ruling will have a profound impact on the nation’s healthcare system, impacting patient access to care, insurance, reimbursement, staffing, technology and other issues affecting the livelihoods of physicians, hospitals and other providers.
If the court upholds the act – or at least some of its provisions – approximately 16 million more Americans will have Medicaid coverage beginning in 2014. Since only about two-thirds of physicians now accept Medicaid patients, those providers will need to make plans to increase their staffing to address that higher demand. Another 16 million Americans would be eligible for health insurance coverage in 2014 through the “individual mandate,” again increasing patient demand for healthcare services.
On the other hand, the court could agree with the act’s opponents, who call it an overreach of federal authority, and strike down the entire act, or some of its provisions. That could put more regulatory power back in the hands of the states, and undoubtedly leading to more litigation in the future. It’s also possible that the court could decide to wait until 2014, when the act’s provisions go into effect, before tackling some or all of the substantive issues. In any case, this spring will be a momentous time for U.S. healthcare providers, who are hoping for a court decision that shows them a clear path forward.
November 14th, 2011
In the next week, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to decide whether to hear one or more of the lawsuits challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010. That decision could come as early as Thursday (November 17).
One of the key issues is the constitutionality of the so-called “individual mandate,” a provision in the federal law that requires individuals or their employers to obtain health insurance by 2014. A lawsuit against the individual mandate has been brought by 26 states, and a national business organization. Three other suits have also challenged that requirement.
If the Supreme Court agrees to take at least one of these cases - a likely decision given the broad impact of the PPACA - a ruling on the individual mandate could provide healthcare employers with greater clarity as they look to the future. That’s important because these organizations have to consider both the “internal” aspects of the law relating to their employees, and the external impact from increased demand for their services.
Other aspects of the PPACA may also be addressed by the Supreme Court. One is a requirement that insurers accept all applicants, even if they have pre-existing conditions, and apply community rates for their coverage. This provision would undoubtedly increase demand if it is deemed constitutional.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court has the power to uphold the law, strike down individual provisions or declare the entire act unconstitutional. Because of the impact, both public and private healthcare service providers need to pay close attention to the court’s decision regarding these cases and the potential rulings on the PPACA. Regardless of the outcome, providers will have a clearer picture of what the U.S. healthcare landscape will look like in the next few years.