The much-awaited ruling finally came as the Supreme Court determined that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is for the most part constitutional. The biggest question was whether or not the federal government could mandate legislation requiring that all Americans purchase health insurance. It can’t, of course, but what was ruled constitutional is that Congress can levy a tax on those who don’t.
The ruling was so long in coming that nearly every pundit out there has already offered its “what if” scenario depending on which way the upper court ruled. However, post-ruling, there are a few insights worth noting from journalists, experts, and health industry players.
The Kaiser Family Foundation offers a good overview of the nuts and bolts of what will happen now that a decision has been rendered and the dust has settled. For example, if a person chooses not to buy health insurance, what is the fine he must pay? According to Kaiser, starting in 2014 the penalty would start at $95 a year, or up to 1% of income, whichever is greater, and rise to $695, or 2.5% of income, by 2016.
One caveat the Court did not rule in favor on is that the federal government may not withdraw existing federal Medicaid funds to states that refuse to expand their Medicaid programs pursuant to the health reform act. However, at the American Hospital Association’s blog, litigator Dominic Perella notes that the Court did not address the fact that the federal government can still punish states by withholding other PPACA-based funds if they decline to participate. Those funds, after all, are not “existing” funds.
The New York Times summarized the impact of the ruling as it may influence investors, observing that, “Hospitals will gain millions of paying customers. Insurers, by contrast, could face crimped profits from restrictive rules. Medical device and pharmaceutical companies will bear new taxes and other higher payouts, but they were already expecting such costs.”
Consequently – at least on the day the ruling came down – the price of shares of hospital stocks raced up, that of health insurers dropped, and some medical device and pharmaceutical stocks experienced slight declines.
Looking forward, the ruling is generally considered a plus for health insurance companies. If the individual mandate had been over-ruled, they would have been expected to uphold the law’s provision that they must insure people with pre-existing conditions, but would not have the expected revenues from new participants (resulting from the mandate) to help defray those costs. The law basically implies growth for health insurers. And when you consider that many people who do not currently choose to purchase health insurance do so because they are basically healthy (such as young adults), the mandate adds assets to the insurance pool with low risk liability of paying claims by new entrants.
For many, the Supreme Court ruling is good news, but for others it signifies further federal government intervention and spending. Whichever side of the fencepost you stand on, it’s a good idea to prepare for your own financial independence – including a long-term plan to pay for health care expenses – as well as possible. We have ideas and options to help you do this.
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