Health care industry in limbo as Republicans target health care reform law

The health care industry is hanging in limbo - and part of that has to do with the political changes this week in Washington.

Republicans officially take the leadership of the House of Representatives tomorrow, and their first target will be repealing the health care reform law passed last year. But the big pieces of the health care overhaul don't kick in until 2014 -- after another presidential election - meaning, the implementation of the law could still change, if a Republican were in the White House.

And yet, insurance companies must decide whether to invest in new facilities, software, and hiring employees, or to wait a few years.

"Do they spend lots of money, only to find the Republicans kill this thing in 2013?" Robert Laszewski, a health care industry consultant said. "This political standoff really puts the marketplace in a terrible place. And you would hope that the politicians would understand that."

Even before taking over, the GOP scheduled a date next week to vote on the official repeal, which will likely pass. But the repeal is more than just unlikely to move any further because Democrats still run the Senate. And even if the repeal were to make it over that hurdle, a White House veto awaits.

Health care companies are in need of political preventative care right now, analysts say. That's because under the law, insurers would be required to take just about everybody and set up ways for people to shop for plans. Hospitals would have to adjust for lower payments from Medicare.

But just to make things even more uncertain, there are lawsuits disputing parts of the law. And the Supreme Court may rule on a central piece of the law requiring individuals to buy insurance in the next year or two.

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