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Obama victory ensures US healthcare reforms will continue

Republican hopeful Mitt Romney unable to act on plan to repeal Affordable Care Act

Barack Obama

Barack Obama's re-election as president of the US means planned reforms to the nation's healthcare system are set to move ahead.

Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger the presidency, had previously pledged to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which President Obama's Democrat party introduced in 2010 in order to expand healthcare coverage to more than 30 million currently uninsured Americans.

This would be achieved through a requirement for all Americans to buy a minimum level of health insurance from 2012, along with a major expansion of the existing Medicaid programme, a government insurance scheme for people with a low income.

Obama's victory, which came at a margin of 303 electoral votes to Romney's 206, now means these plans will be pushed through in all 50 US states, despite continued Republican opposition.

Len Nichols, a health economist at George Mason University, told Kaiser Health News Obama's win “will solidify the law in American history”.

"By 2016 you'll see the vast majority of states with operational [insurance] exchanges and the Medicaid expansion, and we'll be on a pathway to a more humane system."

Obama's attempts to implement the reforms have faced several challenges already, with the US Supreme Court narrowly supporting the Act, although in a limited form, in a recent vote following a challenge from the Republican party.

But implementing the reforms will remain a huge challenge for the Democrat party, despite Obama's election victory.

The Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives, and are expected to push for further delays and concessions during negotiations, although any legislation passed by this House will then have to pass through the Democrat-led Senate.

There may be some benefits to the pharma industry from Obama's victory. When his reforms were initially passed in 2010, they were described as a "double-edged sword", with analysts acknowledging that, in the short-term, discounts and rebates for drugs would cause revenues for pharma companies to decline.

In the longer term the industry should, however, feel the benefit of a larger insured population and a resulting increase in demand for medicines within a few years, according to healthcare analysts at Datamonitor.

8th November 2012

From: Healthcare

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