The Supreme Court ruling on President Obama's landmark health care bill will come down sometime this month before the nine Justices leave Washington, D.C for summer break. Some are even speculating a decision rendered as soon as this week.
The Court's decision could uphold the Affordable Care Act entirely, strike it down in full, or do something in between. For instance, they could deem the individual mandate as unconstitutional while upholding many other facets of the law. The various scenarios have companies in all corners of corporate America, especially the health care sector (XLV), plotting and planning for whatever the decision may be.
"For the life science companies [pharmaceuticals (XPH) and medical technology (IHI)] there's little here that's an outright mandate for them," says Terry Hisey, vice president and life sciences leader at Deloitte. "More so what is effected are the health insurance companies and the hospitals system providers…for health insurance companies and for hospitals it was a big forcing function, for life sciences companies it's a catalyst to market change."
That market change, Hisey believes, has already begun and will not be drastically altered by whatever comes out of Washington. He says a renewed focus on product safety and value, as well as clinical and commercial success is the new normal for the industry. Furthermore, this shift "makes the U.S. look a bit more like markets around the world where they compete already."
Even if the life sciences may be somewhat immune to the whims of Washington, the health care law and what parts, if any, are upheld still has the potential to alter the landscape. "One of the most likely scenarios," argues Hisey, "is that some things happen as it relates to the individual mandate, but what that's really gonna do is end up pushing things back to the state and to the federal government and potentially the congress to re-frame."
What is often lost in headlines dominated by the individual mandate and court battles is that some of the law has already been implemented. "There have been a substantial amount of changes that have already been made," says Hisey, "so one of the issues would be how do you begin to unwind things that have already happened since the legislation was passed?"
In short, the Supreme Court's decision may be imminent, but the real fight over health care reform is just getting started.