Healthcare Reform Debate Rages On

By Spitz (@SpitzStrategy)

As DJ Edgerton commented in April, repeal of “ObamaCare” could have had serious consequences for the pharmaceutical industry. But as Daniel Fisher of Forbes predicted back in February of 2011, the constitutionality of the law rested in the hands of Chief Justice Roberts, not Kennedy, delivering an otherwise surprising swing vote paving the way for the sweeping set of controversial healthcare reforms.

With the law upheld, the road ahead is complex and confusing to many. The NYT published a fairly straightforward FAQ, providing some clarity for consumers. Beginning to take effect on January 1, 2014 unless repealed by Congress, the new law will result in numerous changes on both the federal and state levels, their exact repercussions unknown and now the subject of intense debate.

In terms of pharma, the law will have an immediate impact, requiring companies to provide a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs for retirees on Social Security. Federal subsidies will allegedly fill in the “doughnut hole” gap in Medicare drug coverage by 2020, while pundits argue as to the exact industry ramifications, and their ultimate impact to patients and tax payers.

Overall the verdict seems to be a favorable one for pharma, however, as millions of people otherwise uninsured will enter the ranks, gaining access to billons of dollars worth of prescription drugs over the course of their lives. The sources of that funding, and the role played by generics will also be a work in progress, but more individuals with healthcare coverage generally bodes well for an industry already heavily reliant on strong relationships with payors and the government.

From our vantage point in digital health, tens of millions more people officially entering the healthcare system puts increasing pressure on pharma, providers, hospital systems, payors, and the government to help improve patient education, support, and compliance. As the general population increasingly embraces the latest communications technologies including smartphones and tablets, all segments of the population will be increasingly eager and receptive to taking command of their personal health through digital channels and tech.

But are the industries ready to deliver the information and engagement its constituents expect? If we look at the overall cost of healthcare in this country, the amount we spend on actual physician, patient, and caregiver engagement seems infinitesimal in comparision‚¶

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Michael Spitz , known most often as just "Spitz," is Editor-in-Chief of the Pixels & Pills and a prollific tweeter, blogger, and article writer, active in digital health across all specialties. Follow him @SpitzStrategy.

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