The long awaited Supreme Court verdict on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (dubbed Obamacare), has come back in mainly favor of the new law. In a close ruling, five Justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld Obamacare with the remaining four dissenting. Although the majority of the law was accepted, Chief Justice Roberts quashed certain aspects as unconstitutional, in violation of the balance of federal and state power. The ruling upheld the new law as an acceptable use of congressional power to “lay and collect taxes”. But the provision for the government to withhold Medicaid funds from non-compliant states was rejected. Under the ruling, Congress will only be able to withhold extra funds meant to ease the exchange to the new system, but not take away the existing state Medicaid budget in its entirety.
The effects of the Supreme Court ruling on the healthcare industry are being debated. Pundits are already acknowledging the important role this will play in the upcoming presidential election, but it is really too early to tell what the implementation of the law will mean for healthcare agencies, patients, and insurance companies in the long run. The full provisions of Obamacare do not come into play until January 1st, 2014, but some effects are already being felt. The court decision has affected the stock prices of the healthcare industry, with hospitals up but insurance and pharmaceutical company prices dropping. There are some new developments that the healthcare industry can be sure of. Medicaid will be expanded, with a larger percentage of the population now being financially eligible. It is expected that 50 million uninsured people will gain access to insurance under this act. Medicare is also greatly affected, as many expensive prescription medications will now be covered and available as well as an elimination of co-payments for many types of medical procedures. This is of benefit to many of those in nursing homes, who are commonly on Medicare benefits.
With the requirement for all Americans to be insured, insurance companies are now required to accept in people with pre-existing conditions, who would commonly have been rejected, and not charge a premium for the coverage. While this is certainly beneficial for individuals, the financial toll this could take on insurance companies could be great. Some analysts contend that the law will actually end up benefitting insurance companies, but most agree that the price of healthcare will continue going up and future reevaluations and budget changes will probably be necessary.
As with the implementation of any new system, it is likely that many institutions will have a difficult period during the transition. The effect of 50 million newly insured people on the healthcare system could be a strain. For nursing homes, having to house and care for the additional numbers of patients could lead to problems in overcrowding and understaffing. The next few years may be an unsteady time for the quality of nursing home care. Medicare and Medicaid are integral in funding skilled nursing facilities, so the new changes to those programs are bound to have reverberating impacts.
With the many changes to the healthcare industry coming up under Obamacare, it is vital that nursing homes be monitored to ensure they are providing the health and wellbeing of their residents and upholding the Patient’s Bill of Rights. No matter what happens, all those residing in skilled nursing facilities should be free of avoidable infections, pressure sores, and injury from falling.