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.
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.