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Fallout From Health Care Verdict Expected to Keep K Street Busy

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Protesters on both sides of the health care debate rallied outside the Supreme Court in March, but lobbyists stand to benefit regardless of the court's decision.

No matter how the Supreme Court rules on the 2010 health care law, K Street stands to benefit.

Lobbyists of all stripes are gaming out action plans for their clients in anticipation of a court decision, expected in late June, and the possibility that Congress may reprise parts of the grinding health care debate that consumed 2009 and 2010.

If the justices strike down some or all of the law’s coverage and spending mandates, health care companies and big employers will turn to the House and Senate to clarify the government’s role in a sector that’s projected to consume one-fifth of the U.S. economy by 2020.

Overturning the mandate that most Americans buy medical coverage would dramatically change the outlook for health insurers that are expected to sell policies to the uninsured. Big employers could see costs of covering workers rise. And drug companies, hospitals and other players in the health supply chain may have to defend favored provisions, or renew attacks on ones they oppose, if the law is reopened.

“We will see an explosion of activity,” said Andy Rosenberg, a Democratic lobbyist at Thorn Run Partners. “Should the court strike any portion of the law, there will be room for some stakeholders to argue, both to the administration and to Congress, that other provisions that they oppose should also fall as a result.”

From its inception, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has been the gift that keeps on giving for lobbyists. Obama signed the measure after two years of intense debate in Congress, quickly triggering constitutional challenges from 26 states. In March, interest groups descended on the Supreme Court to frame their issues while justices heard three days of arguments for and against the law. Now, lobbyists are anticipating the next act.

“Now is the time to make sure you’re weighing in with lawmakers,” said Steve Tilton, a lobbyist at Ogilvy Government Relations, who advises health care clients, including biotechnology companies.

Thorn Run, whose clients include the Medical Device Manufacturers Association and CareSource Management Group, one of the country’s largest Medicaid managed health care plans, has been particularly proactive, emailing clients weekly with a dose of “tea leaf reading” and holding conference calls to help develop contingency plans. Preparation is key, said Rosenberg, who is helping his clients build coalitions of like-minded stakeholders and fashion arguments around each of four likely outcomes.

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