After months of opinion, speculation, and conjecture, the long-awaited ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by the U.S. Supreme Court was handed down on Thursday, June 28, 2012. The Justices, in a 5-4 vote, upheld the ACA as well as the expansion of the Medicaid issue.
On the Medicaid topic, Chief Justice Roberts stated, “Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of healthcare, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.”
Reactions to the ruling on the ACA were varied among the public, however, the healthcare field had already started to prepare itself as much as possible, regardless of the outcome. “The reaction in the healthcare field generally is ‘Ok, full speed ahead now’ because even before the ruling, although there was some uncertainty as to what would happen and exactly how the law would be implemented, people did not have the luxury of waiting,” says Lowell Brown, Partner, Health Care Practice Group, Arent Fox LLP, Attorneys at Law.
The various industries of the healthcare field have been at hard at work behind the scenes and making the best of what they have in a depressed economy but the Supreme Court’s decision means there is still a considerable quantity of work to be done as well as a large amount of “legal-ese” to sift through and apply, especially for healthcare facilities.
“The long-term impact is that we are all going to have to be ready for a lengthy haul of adaptation and implementation. It’s going to be another eight to ten years for this law to be put into action. The law requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue 62 new implementing regulations between 2010 and 2014. That’s an unprecedented amount of regulatory activity in a short amount of time. So short term and long term, everybody is going to be watching those regulations as they’re issued. They will come out in stages as proposed regulations,” says Brown.
There is no doubt, as Brown points out, that assorted stakeholders who will affected by this ruling will be vying to have their voices heard and to exert their influence before the final regulations are issued. There are going to be flaws that must be ironed out or possibly left by the wayside but the end result is that hospitals must put the ruling into action and prepare for a new horizon.