It looks like health reform is for keeps.
The re-election last week of Barack Obama and the ability of the Republicans to retain control of the House of Representatives leaves many uncertainties — and sets the stage for more battles between Congress and the White House over the direction of the still sluggish economic recovery, national debt reduction efforts and a slew of other domestic and foreign challenges. But one thing seems clear: With Democrats retaining the presidency for another term, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is far more likely to withstand challenges from Republican lawmakers determined to overturn the landmark law.
President Obama signed the health-reform bill into law in March 2010, and continues to cite its passage as one of his proudest accomplishments as president. But it’s certain that the president’s Republican rivals will continue to challenge many elements of the health-reform law in Congress and at the state level.
Nevertheless, by returning Barack Obama to the White House, a majority of Americans also have effectively endorsed his ambitious, if incomplete, overhaul of the fractured healthcare system. Reflecting the deep divisions within Congress, 45% of voters who responded to exit polls last Tuesday said they thought the health-reform law should be partially or totally repealed. But 47% of those polled favored keeping it in its present form or even expanding it.
My sense is that acceptance of the law will gradually increase as Americans get used to the benefits touted by the president and top health officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, like being able to keep their kids on their insurance plans until age 26 and not worrying about being dumped by their health plan if they get sick.
Still to be confronted, however, are potential minefields spawned by the new law as it nears full implementation in 2014. Will small employers really hold down hiring to avoid crossing the threshold at which they’ll have to start paying employee health costs, as the Romney campaign warned? Will thousands of health providers really throw in the towel over issues like compensation and regulatory oversight? Will health costs skyrocket? Will healthcare rationing be a real issue?
Personally, I doubt it. Americans are an enterprising and resourceful lot, and very adept at finding market solutions to adapt to changing conditions in the market. Other countries that have adopted health reforms in relatively recent times, like Switzerland, have adapted and even come to embrace the combination of government and free-market solutions to an unsustainable rise in health costs. We will too.
Or is America a special case? What’s your take? Is health reform ultimately good for the country, and for the pharmacy industry? Or are we headed off the rails? Please share your opinion below.