December 2, 2011

Growing Deficit May Threaten Health Reform Law More Than Elections, Supreme Court Ruling

Written by Jaimie Oh | December 19, 2011

Cost-controlling initiatives under President Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law may face greater risk of “running aground” as the country’s deficit continues to grow, according to a Reuters report.

The healthcare reform law has drawn intense opposition from conservative leaders, and the question of its constitutionality will be the subject of the Supreme Court’s review this spring. In addition, the reform law could face a possible repeal, pending results from the upcoming presidential election. GOP candidates have made no secret on their intents to scrap the entire law if they are elected into office.

Despite these threats, former healthcare policymakers from both sides have expressed concern that the growing deficit — rather than a Supreme Court ruling or a GOP win in the presidential election — could pose the greatest risk to upcoming changes under the reform law, which includes wide-ranging initiatives to improve quality while controlling costs.

These initiatives, including bundled payments, are vulnerable to cuts since it has not yet been proven whether the efforts can cut costs over the long term. In addition, lawmakers may be forced to make additional cuts to federal healthcare programs, forcing healthcare providers to revert back to fee-for-service models and turn away Medicare or Medicaid patients.

“If the plan is what’s on the table now, which is cut, cut, cut — shift the burden to poor people and taxpayers, take away benefits, take away Medicaid coverage — things will get worse,” former CMS administrator Don Berwick, MD, said in the report.

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