The wait for the justices to release the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare will stretch until next Monday or Thursday. Regardless of how the decision unfolds – here’s an earlier piece on the possible outcomes – there is reason to look ahead with some degree of optimism about the future of health care reform.
If SCOTUS declares the individual mandate unconstitutional, it could take down two very important provisions with it: guaranteed issue (insurance companies need to take all applicants) and community rating (insurance companies can not charge different rates based on individual demographics).
Over the past two weeks, however, some of the country’s largest insurance companies have been supporting key Obamacare provisions. Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini nicely classifies the SCOTUS ruling as important for its constitutional role, but has little effect on the specific provisions of Obamacare. The law and debates on regulation have brought national attention to the challenges of individual coverage and community rating, as well as a generally accepted consensus that reform is needed. Bertolini acknowledges that the current health insurance model is not sustainable and health reform initiatives on an insurance company-level will still continue in the coming months and years.
United Healthcare, the largest health insurer in the U.S., recently announced plans to voluntarily extend health benefits in an effort to “promote broader access to quality care and contribute to helping control rising health care costs.” Stephen Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, recently outlined the specific provisions that would be covered effective immediately, including preventative health care without co-pay, dependent coverage to age 26, and an elimination of lifetime limits.
Humana, another top five U.S. health insurer, also has committed to keep patient protection provisions in place.
Insurance companies have started to voluntarily make changes, Medicare and Medicaid will continue to promote health care IT advancements, and states will likely continue to develop health insurance exchanges.
SCOTUS ruling aside, one thing is for sure: health care reform is well underway and a ruling won’t change that.