House Bill Takes Aim At Obamacare
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), AKA ACA, or more commonly Obamacare, came under fire again yesterday when the House of Representatives passed another bill to repeal the controversial legislation. Since the ACA was introduced in March of 2010 it has been barraged by efforts to get it off the statute books, having faced over sixty direct challenges during the last five years. This latest challenge looks set to fail as well, as President Obama has promised to veto any bill landing on his desk which aims to derail ACA, the plan intended to overhaul and improve healthcare provision at a national level.
Obama has an Achilles heel, of course. After November he will not be able to veto anything. Whether or not to veto future bills will be a choice which falls on the shoulders of his presidential successor, making this something of a political hot potato and quite an electioneering platform.
We are not interested in the politics, here. We are interested in the healthcare implications. Whether you are on one side of the political divide or the other, if ACA is eventually dismantled it will have wide-ranging implications for everyone in the healthcare industry. What would replace ACA? And when? What happens to Medicare / Medicaid attestation and incentive payments? So many questions, so few answers. The billions of dollars invested by EHR vendors, clinical facilities, hospitals, practitioners and even third-party HIPAA business associates across the USA to implement and meet the many stringent legislative, technological and practical requirements placed on them by ACA will go for naught.
Or will they? Whether ACA stays, or it goes away, the technology will remain.
Driven by the need to comply with the rapid pace of change demanded by ACA, interoperability has moved forward tremendously. Disparate health systems can now communicate better than ever before. Overall, patient outcomes are improving, in part due to these improvements. Big Data is transforming medical research, developing new cures faster, and creating entire new technologies which were previously impossible. Patients are more informed than ever and have better access to their own PHI as well as secure mobile communications and direct lines to their healthcare providers. The ageing ICD9 system was finally kicked into retirement in favour of the newer, more flexible ICD10. ACA mandated EHR upgrades and computer system overhauls mean that hospitals, clinics and medical practitioners everywhere have access to vastly improved statistics, demographics and administrative reporting to better manage their finances, their business effectiveness, patient treatments and more. With all the improvements at all levels which have been forced into existence during this roller coaster five years, it is unsurprising that the uphill struggle was resisted so strongly. Despite the cost, however, and whatever the ultimate consequences, when we look back in another five years, one thing will be clear. This massive growth and change was a good thing.
Love it or loathe it, and politics be damned, ACA has transformed the medical arena and will continue to do so at least until November 2016. After that, who knows? The future is always uncertain. What we do know is that progress often comes at a high cost, not always a financial one. The US Healthcare system is currently in a massive state of flux and the upcoming year will see many changes along the way. As long as the overall direction is forward, we should be fine. With or without ACA.