By Tricia RodewaldTo say that there’ve been sleepless nights over healthcare reform, also known as the Affordable Care Act of 2010, would probably be the understatement of the year. Something that complex and expansive has left many expressing—sometimes vehemently—concern over its effects on medical device innovation, quality, and profitability.

September 27, 2011

3 Min Read
AdvaMed Panelists Take Stock of Affordable Care Act

Washington DCFour panelists at AdvaMed 2011 (Caroll Neubauer of B. Braun Medical, Inc., John Bishop of Cepheid, Michael Mussallem of Edwards Lifesciences Corp., and Patrick Morrisey of King & Spalding) weighed in on what healthcare reform looks like one year later—and what aspects keep them up at night.

They all agreed that a major issue is the uncertainty surrounding what the law would or could mean. This has been made even more ambiguous by the constant threats to repeal the act.

While the panel didn't discover any clear-cut solutions to dealing with the enormous ramifications of healthcare reform, there were some telling (and surprising) insights.

  • Approximately 23% of doctors are employed by health systems. That number is expected to double in the next few years.

  • Many people are still arguing that to make healthcare reform work, quality of care will have to be sacrificed for cost.

  • The U.S. population is getting older. There’s going to be more healthcare consumed over the next decade and beyond, and we’re not as prepared as we need to be.

  • Because the focus in the United States is on being able to afford the growing need for care, innovation is taking a back seat.

  • Industry surveys since 2008 have revealed that 52% of consumers believe that 50% of healthcare costs are wasted, while 38% would give the U.S. healthcare system a grade of D or F.

  • There’s an rush of start-up medical technology companies bringing their products to market in Europe instead of the United States.

  • The medical device tax is likely to have negative consequences for small start-ups and not-for-profit companies.

  • In 2010, there was a 40% cost increase in getting a product to market. The process is getting more expensive and unpredictable, and is taking longer.

  • The consensus on the panel is that FDA needs to make process changes to accommodate the new emerging technologies that are out there. For example, conducting postmarket surveillance effectively verses forcing everything to be collected on a premarket prospective basis.

  • It’s important to acknowledge that FDA is cash-starved too. The agency didn’t receive any funding in the Affordable Care Act or the Stimulus Act, although its responsibilities have increased. The financial pressures faced by FDA make it very difficult to operate with the appropriated funds it is given. The reality is that the FDA will be looking more and more to the healthcare industry to help cover some of its costs.

  • The United States is expected to fall to the No. 2 slot in the medical technology industry within 10 years.

Clearly, there’s a great deal of pessimism overall about how the Affordable Care Act  will be carried out. The bright spot is that, in the midst of the confusion and fear of the unknown, the panelists were still optimistic that the United States can eventually reform healthcare in a way that is more effective and quality-driven.

Here’s hopin’!

Tricia Rodewald is director of marketing and strategic alliances at Pro-Dex Inc.

 For more about healthcare reform and the medical device industries, check out these stories from MD+DI:

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