What if the Supreme Court Rules the Affordable Care Act Unconstitutional?
Will health reform disappear if the Supreme Court strikes down ‘Obamacare’?
Not according to health care experts publishing their opinions in both consumer and industry media.
Ezekiel J. Emanuel, currently an academician at the University of Pennsylvania, an oncologist and former White House advisor, said in an editorial in the New York Times that regardless of how the court rules, many reforms will proceed.
He cites reforms that were approved by Congress through the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – and other recent bills, such as those promoting electronic health records, encouraging coordinated patient care, posting online hospitals’ rate of medical errors and infections, and cutting payments to hospitals with the highest rates.
As a result, hospitals are already getting better, he says. At the hospital where he works, infections from IV lines have reduced from 30 or 40 per month to one or fewer. This happened because lines were removed when they weren’t necessary, changed regularly and a more vigorous sterilizing technique was used when inserting them.
Another improvement, he relates, is in the area of hospital readmissions. Nearly 20 percent of Medicare patients are readmitted to a hospital within 30 days after they are discharged. While some of the reasons are unrelated to their original hospital stay, many times it is because their discharge care wasn’t properly coordinated. This year, because of the health care reform act, hospitals will be penalized that have high readmission rates for pneumonia, heart failure and heart attacks, and that list will be expanded later. Because of this, hospitals are working hard to fix the problem.
Emanuel thinks this reform – and many others — won’t change if the Supreme Court strikes down many parts of the Affordable Care Act. He believes that “hospitals and doctors will continue to work to improve care and control costs.”
Stephen L. Mansfield, president and CEO of Methodist Health System in Dallas, agrees. He says there must be a “complete transformation” of the healthcare system, regardless of what happens with the Supreme Court decision.
Chris Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Health in San Diego, says that what the justices decide may not matter that much as far as health reform goes, according to quotes in HealthLeaders Media.
“We all know that too many people are uninsured, the current system is broken and is too costly,” he said. “Much of the work, in fact all of the work, Scripps is doing right now to improve quality, access and lower cost will continue, regardless of the final decision.”
Jay Warden, senior vice president of The Camden Group, a healthcare management and consulting service, wrote in Becker’s Hospital Review that, “The Supreme Court ruling will impact the specifics of how care is paid for, and by whom, but the need for local providers to improve access to primary care will remain a constant.”
It appears that the tipping point has been reached. Health reform is coming, whether or not the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. What exactly that reform will look like, nobody knows for sure.