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For businesses, ruling a measure of clarity

Businesses hate uncertainty. So many were heartened that the Supreme Court ruling Thursday, largely upholding the national health care law, provided a measure of clarity in their health care calculations -- though aspects of the clearer picture weren’t entirely welcomed.

Massachusetts employers and health care companies said their companies would not be dramatically changed by the federal Accountable Care Act because the state already mandates so-called universal coverage. Other parts of the federal law that remain intact -- requirements to cover those with pre-existing medical conditions and not cancel coverage after people get sick -- also are already in force in Massachusetts.

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Other parts of the law narrowly affecting certain industries drew mixed responses.

Biotechnology executives applauded a provision creating a regulatory pathway for generic versions of biotech drugs while also protecting the original drug makers for a longer period. But medical device industry leaders said a tax that will help pay for the law will cost device makers $29 billion over the coming decade, sapping funds for research and hiring workers.

Overall, many said greater certainty makes it easier for them to move forward.

“I think it’s good news for the biotech industry,” said Richard Pops, chief executive of biotechnology company Alkermes Inc. in Waltham. “This was a highly engineered and negotiated law. If it had been struck down in whole or in part, it would have created a lot of uncertainty.”

“Some employers were thinking, this whole thing could go down, we’re not doing anything’” to comply with the law’s requirements, said Alden Bianchi, a partner specializing in employee benefits at Boston law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. “Now it’s full speed ahead. This is the law, it’s constitutional, and it’s going to go forward.”

The reaction of Rob Friel, chief executive of Waltham laboratory tool maker PerkinElmer Inc., was typical of many executives. While he doesn’t like the medical device tax, which will cost his company an estimated $5 million a year, he said that consideration was offset by the benefits flowing to medical technology companies from more people on the insurance rolls.

“You’re giving potentially 50 million Americans access to health care, so that will be positive for the industry because it creates demand” for PerkinElmer diagnostic systems and other products, Friel said. “The other thing about the decision is it provides certainty.”

Like others who had supported the 2006 landmark Massachusetts health care law, James Roosevelt Jr., chief executive of Tufts Health Plan in Watertown, said the universal coverage benefits of that law will now be extended to uninsured people nationally

“I think this was a great victory for the American people,” Roosevelt said. “Overall, the Supreme Court has reached a decision that provides certainty for insurers and businesses, and establishes the principle that we’re already comfortable with in Massachusetts: that of consumer protection and everyone paying their fair share.”

Not everyone was happy, however. Michael R. Minogue, chief executive of Abiomed Inc., a Danvers maker of heart pumps and artificial heart, warned that the medical device tax -- which he felt should not have been included in the health care law -- would stifle innovation.

“The device tax in our mind is really not part of health care reform,” Minogue said. “It’s a policy decision, and we think it’s bad policy because it’s going to have a negative impact on jobs. It’s about 15 percent of our research budget, it’s about 10 percent of our heads. We are not going to add as many jobs as quickly as we would have, and we’re not going to be able to fund research and development as quickly as we would have.”

Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.
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