Industry awaits healthcare reform verdict

As the industry waits with bated breath for a U.S. Supreme Court decision, providers and payers will have to hold on just a few days longer as the nine rule on the constitutionality of health reform--a decision expected Thursday, according to Bloomberg.

Called Washington's modern-day O.J. Simpson case, according to The New York Times, the decision has been the polarizing and unpredictable topic of conversation in the district for months.

And the ruling is anyone's guess, with pundits using tools tantamount to magic eight balls and crystal balls, even analyzing the justices' body language to guess the outcome.

"If you watch Justice Ginsburg speaking about the Affordable Care Act case starting at the 27:40 mark of the video, she seems to be having fun talking about the case," Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor, wrote on the blog Volokh Conspiracy, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking to a lawyers' convention earlier this month, even noted the stream of "rumors and fifth-hand accounts" in the press about the possible verdict, according to the Associated Press.

While the biggest healthcare decision ruling rests on the shoulders of nine justices, they've maintained a vow of silence on the issue. Supreme Court insiders, including clerks, secretaries, aides, security guards, janitors, support staff and family members also are keeping their mouths shut. If they know anything about the case, they're not talking, the AP reported.

Experts have mixed predictions on how the high court will rule, and Americans are split on the issue. Fifty-six percent of people are against the healthcare overhaul and 44 percent favor it. Although most Americans disapprove the health law, strong majorities favor most of the provisions, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online poll conducted from Tuesday through Saturday. Sixty-one percent are against the individual mandate.

However the Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act, hospitals--having to account for growing numbers of patients--could find themselves hurt no matter which way the justices go, according to The Washington Post.

Healthcare experts, including former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick, publicly stated that it's too late to turn back now, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules.

"The tension of this moment is really just a concentrated version of the uncertainty that will go on forever because we do know that no matter what the Supreme Court decides, reform is inevitable," Group Health CEO Scott Armstrong said last week at the AHIP Institute in Salt Lake City, FierceHealthPayer reported. "It's necessary because the cost of care is too high, and outcomes aren't good enough."

For more information:
- here's the Bloomberg brief
- read the NYT article
- see the WSJ article (subscription required)
- check out the AP article
- see the Reuters poll
- read the Washington Post article

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