Healthcare News & Insights

Supreme Court upholds healthcare reform: What it means for health IT

After a long wait, the Supreme Court’s verdict is in: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is constitutional. 

Despite some predictions that it would be struck down, the massive healthcare reform law was upheld by the Court in 5-4 decision.

Opponents of the law argued that the so-called “individual mandate,” which will force some Americans to pay for health insurance, is unconstitutional. However, the justices ruled that the penalty levied against those who refuse to buy coverage is considered a tax, and therefore permitted.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have promised to repeal the law, but it’s unlikely the Democrat-controlled Senate will let that happen.

What does the Supreme Court’s decision mean for health IT? The major regulations affecting healthcare technology — such as she federal incentive program for the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) — was created by separate legislation and never in jeopardy. However, health IT will play a key role in the evolution that will be pushed forward by the reform law, said the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in a statement.

Hospitals and providers will turn to EHRs and other technologies to continue improving efficiency and care, especially as an estimated 30 million new patients that were previously uninsured enter the healthcare system.

Aside from the individual mandate, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains other provisions affecting health IT that would have been repealed if the Court had decided to throw away the entire law. For example, the law creates new requirements for data reporting and changes in reimbursement structures that will be dependent on IT, as well as programs to expand care coverage and improve personal wellness, including through the use of health IT tools.

The law will also set up programs to increase healthcare technology training and health IT workforce development.

Part of the law will have a negative impact on one health IT sector, some observers have argued — the reform legislation will add a 2.3% sales tax on medical devices, scheduled to take effect in January.

For a list of the IT-related items in the recently upheld healthcare reform law, download the HIMSS’s fact sheet here.

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