With individual mandate upheld, pharma gets its new patients

Drugmakers can rest easy on healthcare reform. With the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the law, pharma's $80 billion worth of horse-trading stays intact. Yes, the discounts that have taken a bite out of U.S. sales will stand. But the insurance mandate stands, too. So, drugmakers will see that big influx of patients--the reason they traded away those discounts--when that provision takes effect in 2014.

How big an influx? According to New York Times figures, taken from the Congressional Budget Office's report on the Affordable Care Act, the number of insured Americans under age 65 will leap past 240 million as the mandate takes effect, climbing to 250 million-plus by 2022.

Meanwhile, the number of uninsured will now drop as expected, with a steep decline beginning in 2014 and continuing through around 2016. Rather than 50 million-plus Americans without health insurance, we'll be looking at around 27 million by 2022.

If the individual mandate had been struck down, with the rest of the ACA intact, drugmakers would have had the worst of both worlds. Their billions in Medicare discounts would have remained, but their recompense would vanish. No individual mandate, no big expansion of insurance coverage, no big leap in the number of patients able to afford drugs.

But now, pharma gets what the ACA promised in the first place. Millions more people will have help paying for their drugs. So, more scripts will be filled and more refills will be paid for. And millions more people will have ready access to healthcare providers. And that means more prescriptions are likely to be written in the first place.

- read the Reuters news
- see the NYT charts
- check out In the Pipeline's take

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