President Barack Obama's hallmark health insurance legislation, the Affordable Care Act, has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a recent ruling. This piece of legislation that was signed into law in 2010 has been causing political and regulatory rifts ever since, but the affirmation of legal subsidies will now allow patients to move forward with the consumer protections passed several years ago.
These subsidies are very important, according to Health Data Management. Without them, much of the ACA would have been null and void. In short, these provisions and health insurance exchanges are aimed to keep things more transparent and fair between patients and insurance companies. However, the ACA also has an impact on the progression of health IT.
The ACA effect
Health Data Management point out that after this Supreme Court decision, several health IT policies will remain in place, including statewide health insurance exchanges and HIPAA electronic claims with electronic health records (remittance advice and claims attachments would also be included in these).
Additionally, a health plan identifier will continue to be part of the policy, as would electronic capabilities for enrollment into health and human services programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Obamacare also imposes a tax on health IT devices, including tools that collect or share patient data. Lastly, the ACA helped to expand data analytics further, especially in regards to Medicare claims data.
In a 6-3 ruling on King v. Burwell, the dissenters were justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Their main concerns with the ACA pertain to a half-phrase in the legislation concerning limited subsidies to states that operated their own exchanges. The majority of the judges, however, claimed that the half-phrase in question was not literal.
"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter. Section 36B (pertaining to subsidies) can fairly be read consistent with what we see as Congress's plan, and that is the reading we adopt," the judges in favor of the ruling stated.
Reactions from organizations
According to Healthcare IT News, several leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the Mayo Clinic and the Department of Health and Human Services all expressed relief at the decision, both in terms of public health and health care costs.
Even though this is the second time the ACA has gone through Supreme Court trials, legislators against the ACA have vowed to repeal Obamacare, even though President Obama still holds executive power and the right of veto. Whether or not political posturing will continue with an election year coming up remains to be seen. However, in the meantime, the ACA's provisions regarding health IT expansion and optimization are still expected to progress and advance in addition to health insurance reforms.