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The Supreme Court brought down its gavel June 28 in favor of the Affordable Care Act, and most healthcare IT stakeholders are ready to put the uncertainty behind them and move on.
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) President and CEO H. Stephen Lieber said, “HIMSS, like the rest of the country, is relieved that questions about the healthcare reform law have now been settled and the nation can move forward with the essential work of transforming healthcare in America.”
[See also: Q&A -- We now have a framework for health reform.]
HIMSS officials noted, that while there are many potential implications for health IT in the ACA, the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Program was never in jeopardy regardless of the outcome of this case; that program was authorized by the HITECH Act, which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The ACA was separate legislation passed in 2010.
In a press conference following the Supreme Court’s decision, Dave Roberts, vice president of government relations at HIMSS, said, “After over two years of legal maneuvering, we finally have a decision today. There has not been a more historic piece of legislation enacted since Medicare.”
Roberts said now that the Supreme Court decision has been made, there are a number of steps that need to be taken beyond that decision to make sure heath IT is used correctly to identify patients. Multiple associations are working with Congress to come up with a nationwide way to identify patients.
According to Roberts, shortly after the decision he began to hear from some hospital CEOs, relieved at the outcome. The ACA will relieve hospitals of much of the uncompensated care they now carry. This will increase available funding to purchase health IT, and to invest even beyond what is required under the meaningful use program, he said.
“Consumers are going to be demanding ways to access their health information, and this will just be the tip of iceberg on the innovations we’re going to see, now that this issue has been decided,” Roberts said.
Justin Barnes, vice president of marketing, industry and government affairs at Greenway Medical Technologies and co-chair of the Accountable Care Community of Practice, said the Supreme Court decision would help spur positive steps in the healthcare industry. It will allow communities to confidently and quickly engage in care coordination models that will create a more sustainable healthcare system. Both parties support accountable care.
“This has the ability to save all stakeholders a lot of money as we work in partnership to improve care quality, patient safety as well as engage and empower our patients turning them into powerful consumers,” Barnes said.
Roberts agreed that healthcare IT has always enjoyed the support of both parties, and will continue to do so.
Premier President and CEO Susan DeVore said the decision “will have little impact on the Premier healthcare alliance’s work to increase transparency and successfully implement changes that better align payment with quality and value.”
“Measures such as hospital value-based purchasing (VBP), creation of Medicare-based Accountable Care Organizations and national pilots to test the effectiveness of bundled payments are important policy levers that are moving healthcare forward, and each of these enhancements has strong public and bipartisan support,” she said. “Similarly, the creation of the CMS Innovation Center and increased investment in the development of quality measures are also necessary to increase transparency, reduce care variation and avoid unnecessary healthcare costs.”
“Healthcare is our nation’s top economic issue, and the Court’s decision will help ensure that there is no loss of momentum as our members continue to improve the quality and affordability of care for Americans,” DeVore said.
Though health IT stakeholders are mainly pleased, they will still face resistance over the issue. Brookings Senior Fellow Sarah Binder said the decision takes the wind out of the sails of conservatives’ constitutional mantra against the Affordable Care Act. “But in some ways, the Republicans’ precise arguments against the ACA are immaterial: Their legislative efforts to repeal and/or replace the Act will go forward with or without the constitutional window-dressing.”