In a huge victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court has decided that the President’s signature health-care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act, is constitutional. But for the lawyers and lobbyists who represent the health industry, the work is far from over. Within minutes of the court’s ruling, many of them were already fielding questions and reactions from clients, and thinking ahead to the next hurdles that confront the ACA.
“This is not the period at the end of the sentence,” says Ilisa Halpern Paul, a health care lobbyist at Drinker Biddle & Reath. “I would say it’s an ellipsis, a ‘to-be-continued.’”
“The notion that this is the final judicial blessing of the ACA is just false,” seconds Eric Zimmerman, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, who represents health-care providers.
No matter what the Supreme Court had decided, it’s been clear for weeks that some of the most frantic folks in town following the ruling would be health-industry lawyers and lobbyists. Aside from the confusion and questions they would undoubtedly deal with from clients, major Washington firms have been alerting reporters that their health experts would be available via Webinars, teleconferences, and phone interviews to analyze the decision as soon as it was handed down. For good reason, firms don’t want to miss the opportunity to position their lawyers and lobbyists as leaders on the issue.
But beyond talking to the media, there’s real work to be done in the coming weeks and months. Obviously, the political fight over health-care reform continues, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowing this morning to repeal the Affordable Care Act if he’s elected. It will ultimately fall to Congress to appropriate the funds necessary to implement the ACA, which means health-industry lobbyists can look forward to duking it out over the appropriations bill down the road.
One piece of the Affordable Care Act that has faced bipartisan opposition is a tax on medical devices, which the medical technology industry says could stunt innovation. A bill to repeal that provision recently passed in the House, with Republican and some Democratic support. K-Streeters advocating for medical device companies will keep fighting that issue.
And the Supreme Court case wasn’t the last court battle for the ACA. Challenges to parts of the legislation not dealt with in the Supreme Court case linger in lower courts. “They’ve been suspended pending the outcome of the Supreme Court challenge,” Zimmerman explains. “Those cases will continue to work their way through court. Other cases will continue to be filed.”
So, yes, the Supreme Court has spoken, but the Affordable Care Act will continue to feed Washington’s law and lobbying industries for the foreseeable future.