Obamacare Is Only 5 Years Old, And It Has Changed Healthcare Forever

Earlier this week, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a must-read report focusing on the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) on all sectors of the U.S. health industry. 

Much attention is currently focused on the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision that could lead to the loss of subsidies for millions of currently insured Americans. In addition, there’s a distinct possibility that Obamacare could be defunded if there is a shift in political power during the next presidential election. 

Despite these headwinds, it is important to recognize that many of the changes in the U.S. health system fueled by the ACA will persist whether or not the legislation disappears tomorrow. As PwC notes: “Industry leaders must recognize that traditional ways of doing business are rapidly shifting toward a post-ACA system. While many healthcare players are walking the tightrope between old and new, eventually the ‘new’ will become the norm.” 



Following are four fundamental shifts in health that will persist regardless of Obamacare’s fate: 

  • Consumers Are More Cost-Aware: One of the fastest-growing forms of health insurance is high-deductible plans where consumers are responsible for paying thousands in out-of-pocket expenses for care. Many products available on the insurance exchanges are these types of plans and people are choosing them because they have lower monthly premiums. As a result, consumers are much more aware of the cost of care and are actively searching for less expensive treatment options — even for major illnesses like cancer. This may come as a surprise to some, but this type of cost shifting is exactly what policymakers and strategists (many of them conservatives) have wanted to occur for many, many years. And because their thinking shaped the ACA, those who have long wished for a more consumer-driven health system have achieved their goal with Obamacare, even if they are opposed to the overall Act. 
  • Companies and Investors Betting on the Post-ACA Health Economy Will Make Billions: The ACA has fueled the founding and expansion of many companies, from big data analytics firms to adherence specialists. The ACA’s focus on improving quality and deemphasizing fee for service care has opened up many opportunities for innovation in both large and small ways. 
  • The 401(K)ing of Healthcare Has Made Education and Guidance a Priority: With millions of people facing the choice of which insurance plans to purchase, struggling to understand the impact of the ACA on their taxes and more, education has never been more important. I often compare this shift in consumers’ knowledge needs to what happened when 401(K)s were introduced. Savvy marketers and organizations must recognize that where there’s a need for guidance, there’s an opportunity. 
  • New Market Entrants Are Shaking Up the Status Quo: Who would have imagined five years ago that companies like Apple, Walgreens and CVS would be betting big on health? Yet, these are the firms that are making some of the most innovative moves in health right now. From Walgreens’ use of digital tools to boost and measure behavior change to Apple’s focus on creating a robust data-device ecosystem, the health landscape is rapidly shifting. Strategists at these companies recognize that the ACA has helped to refocus attention on data, technology, quality and patient experience. They are actively looking for ways to take advantage of this new state of affairs. 

It would be foolish to ignore the impact the ACA has had on the health landscape due to short-term thinking about its legal or legislative fate. 

You don’t want to be one of the companies, organizations or executives looking in from the outside as innovators, risk takers and strategists reap the benefits from their understanding of and investment in the fast-changing post-ACA health landscape. 

The ACA is only five years old. Now’s the time to participate in and shape the post-Obamacare health world.

2 comments about "Obamacare Is Only 5 Years Old, And It Has Changed Healthcare Forever ".
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  1. Bill Jackson from EPAM/Empathy Lab, March 20, 2015 at 11:28 a.m.

    There are some great points made here. It is also probably important to mention how many doctors, who had independent practices have shifted to being employed by large health systems, The slow, and broken, but steady transformation of electronic health records, and the shift to reimbursements based on prevention vs. treatment, and the reduction of patient days in the hospital. All powerful by themselves, when combined - a amount massive change in a short amount of time.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 20, 2015 at 12:03 p.m.

    So Congress had another repeal vote (50th ?) so all of the innovations and coverage can help take us to 1850. The disconnect is of science fiction proportion.

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