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This Week in Health Care Reform - June 26th, 2015

The Supreme Court issues its latest health care law verdict as anticipation reaches a crescendo; a new survey tells an increasingly familiar story on drug prices; and, a quietly-passed law in one state has far-reaching implications in many others.


Week in Review

SCOTUS, Finally: Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its eagerly-anticipated decision in the King v. Burwell case, ruling that the subsidies offered through the Federal exchange were in keeping with the intent of the health care law and handing the Administration its second major legal victory since the Affordable Care Act was first passed.  Ahead of the decision, predictions ranged from the measured (“shockwaves”) to the cataclysmic (“death spiral”) in anticipation of the Court ruling for the plaintiffs, which would have meant striking down the subsidies made available through the  Federal exchange, thereby causing tensions to run high.  So, with the ruling in the books the conversation now shifts from one of anticipatory preparation for the possible fallout to what the future now holds for the still divisive law.  Their patience having worn thin while waiting for the Court, Congress stood poised on the other side of the ruling to step in with their own legislative tourniquet.  Now, it remains to be seen what kind of appetite lawmakers (let alone the public) have to launch themselves once more into the breach.

Voters Voice Concern:
A new survey, sponsored by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP), continues to highlight what has already become a prominent issue dominating the health care conversation – namely, the rising price of prescription drugs.  Compiled by Morning Consult, what sets this analysis apart, though, is its focus on registered voters in three early primary states, Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, framing the issue as one that candidates would do well to pay attention to.  At its simplest, the results speak for themselves, with 84 percent of respondents saying they would favor candidates who would be willing to take on the issue of drug industry pricing.  Further, a plurality of voters rates the issue as “extremely” important.  And, the sentiment isn’t divided along political lines or dictated by demography as there’s consensus across traditionally disparate groups that more should be done to ensure that these drug companies are acting responsibly.

Earlier this year, the Virginia State Legislature quietly passed a bill with far-reaching ramifications.  At issue, the potential merger of the two dominant hospital systems in the Tri-Cities region, which encompasses parts of Southwestern Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee.  To get around state and federal anti-trust laws, lawmakers passed a Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) law, which would enable these competitors to merge.  The COPA law provides entities with immunity from anti-trust regulations, so long as they’re able to establish that the benefits of their proposed union outweigh the anti-competitive disadvantages.  Citing the unique challenges of providing care to the largely rural population of the Tri-Cities region, proponents of the merger say that the combined entity that would result from the joining together of these organizations would benefit the community at-large.  However, experts aren’t so quick to sign-off, voicing concern, not only with what the lack of competition would do to consumer costs, quality of care, and local employment, but with the unintended downstream impact that this could have on other communities and the vulnerable populations they serve.

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Looking Ahead

Given the many challenges that plagued the launch of the exchanges almost two years ago and the many subsequent technical fixes required to iron out the wrinkles, you’d be excused if you just assumed that the heavy lifting (and corresponding expenditures) were behind us.  However, new analysis indicates that, rather than decreasing, administrative costs are, in fact, exploding under the Affordable Care Act and are projected to add more than a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars in costs to our health care system by 2022. 

With the Independence Day holiday upon us, there will not be a newsletter next week.  But, we'll be back the following week with all the latest news.  Until then, you can keep up with what's going on by following the Health Action Network on Twitter and by liking us on Facebook.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!