'Obamacare' Decision to Have Limited Impact on Commonwealth

By Sarah Birnbaum

June 27, 2012

BOSTON — The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care reform law. But if the Affordable Care Act is struck down, the practical impact in Massachusetts may be relatively small.

Since Massachusetts's pioneering health reform law already instituted many of the national law's initiatives, the impact here won’t be as dramatic as in other states if the law is overturned.

Even if the individual mandate to buy insurance is struck down, the Bay State’s requirement that most people buy health coverage or pay a fine will remain in place. And while other states may choose to drop millions of residents from their Medicaid rolls, that’s illegal in Massachusetts.

Still, the Affordable Care Act has been funding many programs here in the Bay State. It's given grants to address childhood obesity, train health workers, expand immunizations. The law has funded many of the clinicians who work in community health centers. Grant money in the law is supposed to help fund new and easier-to-use health plans for about 111,000 people with serious medical problems who are both on Medicare and Medicaid. And it provides funds to move hundreds of seniors and people with disabilities from institutional settings to community ones with support services.

It’s unclear how much money these programs might lose, or if they would continue at all. And even though the state's secretary of health and human services said Massachusetts will remain committed to providing affordable and high-quality health care, experts said that if the law is overturned, cutbacks of some form would probably be necessary.

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