on June 27, 2012 by admin in Insurance Industry, Comments (0)

Supreme Court health care ruling: For health industry, ‘every man for …

Cable TV hosts are talking nonstop about the Supreme Court’s decision on President Barack Obama’s health care law. Politicians are waiting anxiously for it. And the health industry is plotting to win the aftermath.

In corporate suites, K Street conference rooms, and Wall Street investment shops, industry players haven’t all been content to wait and see what the court does.

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“This is every man for himself,” said a K Street Republican who has health care clients. “It’s a zero-sum game. They all want to make sure they are on the winning side.”

But they’re also eager to find out what the future of their world looks like — because so much of their world now depends on whether the health care law will survive, be shredded, or be wiped out.

(Also on POLITICO: Full health care coverage)

The war-gaming over the law — the Affordable Care Act — has been particularly intense for insurers and retailers, who are preparing for a doomsday scenario in which the law’s individual mandate is struck down but other provisions are left intact. If insurers are required to cover folks with pre-existing conditions, but young and healthy consumers aren’t required to buy health plans, premiums will skyrocket.

“It would be a worse mess than we already have” with the health care law, Neil Trautwein, vice president of the National Retail Federation, said.

Major hospitals and health care systems have been developing their playbooks, too.

“Obviously everyone is waiting with bated breath about what’s going to happen. There’s lot of talk and gaming out under different scenarios,” said Harold Ickes, a lobbyist who served as deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. “What we do for our clients is lay out different scenarios.”

But Ickes and Delos Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, said that health providers already have been moving toward giving care in the ways prescribed by the health care law, and that will continue even if the law is fully or partially struck down. 

“I think what we’re going to see is just a slowing of the pace of that progress,” said Cosgrove, whose hospital is frequently cited by Obama and others as a model health provider. The law, he said, “put milestones in place and pressed the change.”

While the White House has said it will be ready to react to any ruling, top administration officials aren’t saying a word about the architecture of their plans — other than repeating the talking point that “we’ll be ready.”

That’s what state insurance commissioners reported after meeting Tuesday with Marilyn Tavenner, the acting chief of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and two officials from the federal government’s insurance oversight agency.

The administration officials didn’t talk about specific responses to the various Supreme Court scenarios, several commissioners said.

“Our discussion was more around how do we keep the lines of communications open,” said Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, who holds a post once occupied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

(Also on POLITICO: A viewer's guide to the SCOTUS health care ruling)

Praeger says she expects that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners will hold conference calls Thursday and Friday to discuss how to respond to the ruling — but that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback probably will still oppose doing anything to implement the law before the election, even if it survives. She says she hasn’t had any discussions with him about a response.

Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher Koller, however, isn’t exactly planning a rapid response. He says it will take his office at least two weeks to digest the ruling.

Insurance companies are trying to position themselves to withstand a public backlash if they’re thrust back into the position of deciding who gets covered and who doesn’t.

Article source: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0612/77864.html

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