What Does the Supreme Court’s Decision Mean for Research?

by Joan Rachlin, Executive Director

June 28, 2012, will go down in history as a day of celebration for those who believe that health care is something that should be provided to all US citizens. Although a single-payer system is widely acknowledged to be the best way to reach that goal, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a step in the right direction.

The US Supreme Court upheld the law in a 5-4 vote, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the majority. In upholding the controversial requirement that all Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty fee, the Chief Justice characterized the mandate as a valid exercise of Congress’ authority to “lay and collect taxes.”

The law as written includes a few provisions that impact biomedical research, most notably the creation of an accelerated approval process for biosimilar drugs. Other sections of the ACA that are relevant to the PRIM&R community are the authorization of a Cures Acceleration Network and a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). There is also a requirement that drug and device companies post on the internet any payments to physicians in excess of $10, or the in-kind equivalent.


Support for the decision is coming in from many quarters of the research and medicine worlds. One posting that we were particularly impressed by was that of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). PRIM&R’s longstanding friend and professional partner praised the Court’s decision despite the fact that US teaching hospitals will be losing 153 billion dollars in Medicare and Medicaid payments over the next nine years. It is hoped and expected, though, that this decrease in revenue would likely be offset by increased income from the greater number of insured citizens using hospital services. 

Today was, all told, a great day for the citizens of our country and for the members of our community, all of whom know the need for and value of a fair and functional health care system. It’s also a reminder that doing the right thing takes great courage and principles, so thanks to all who had anything to do with the drafting and passage of the ACA.

Onward in hope and hooray for change!