Jonathan Bush: The ACA is bad for healthcare, but 'quite good' for athenahealth

Jonathan Bush, co-founder and CEO of athenahealth, has openly been a critic of the Affordable Care Act, saying healthcare reform is a hindrance to innovation and having widespread coverage minimizes the value of care. However, in a recent interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Bush said athenahealth has grown and expanded as a result of physicians being required to comply with the new rules.

In the first quarter of 2016, athenahealth reported $256.1 million in revenue, a 24 percent increase from the $206.4 million in revenue reported for the same time period last year. Mr. Bush said in the interview he expects earnings to grow, especially as physicians continue to migrate to the cloud.

There are currently 78,000 providers on athenaNet, athenahealth's network, and that number is growing. "The momentum, the intellectual buy-in that this is the way healthcare is going to go is starting to be accepted," Mr. Bush said in the interview.

Connecting physicians is the first step to connecting all of healthcare, which is a key objective of athenahealth, Mr. Bush said, mentioning how athenahealth is trying to create the healthcare Internet, which would facilitate this type of connection.

Mr. Bush credits, at least partially, some of athenahealth's growth and ability to connect providers to the ACA, despite what he views as the healthcare law's shortcomings.

"Obamacare is kind of a beautiful metaphor for society giving up on healthcare growing up organically on its own and instead pushing down changes to make it more socialized, make it more connected," Mr. Bush said. "It's been bad for the healthcare system, but quite good for athena because you have these enormous mandates, very complex, multi-hundred page regulations that you need to comply with in order to get full payment."

Mr. Bush alluded to the recently proposed Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 and the Merit-based Incentive Payment program, a 962-document outlining changes to how Medicare providers will receive payment.

"These changes make complexity that doctors and hospitals can't handle on their own, so they join the cloud. We do it once, and everybody benefits," Mr. Bush said.

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