Businesses worried about health reform regulations

What can Michigan businesses expect as federal health care reform gains momentum?

That was the big question being asked during a Health Care Reform: Defined event and panel discussion Tuesday at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The answer, of course, depends upon many factors, including the shape of yet-to-be-written regulations and how the Nov. 2 election shakes out in both Washington, D.C. and Lansing. But the consensus was that businesses will likely need help both from tax and employee-benefit advisors as well as from statewide insurance exchanges set to be established in 2014.

One of business’ biggest concerns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was the lack of measures to contain costs, experts said. That concern is echoed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (video), which holds a membership in the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty that still lies within the whole PPACA”, said Michael Embry, vice president and senior account director for Comerica Insurance Services. A law that already stands at more than 2,000 pages could balloon to more than 10,000 pages and 1,700 separate regulations once completed, he added.

One regulation that many businesses would like to see jettisoned was a 1099 reporting requirement that will force rigorous tracking of payments to vendors, said Joseph Rankin, a partner in the employee benefit consulting group at Plante & Moran.

“The best thing I can say to employers is surround yourself with good advisors on all aspects of PPACA,” Embry told attendees.

While panelists agreed that the reform law could see changes if Republicans win control of Congress, they were divided on how far-reaching those changes could be. Republicans are unlikely to win enough seats to gain the veto-proof majorities necessary to repeal the law outright, said Peter Pratt, the owner of Public Sector Consultants in Lansing who oversees the firm’s health care consulting.

What’s more, Pratt said, every attempt to cut out costs from the law will decrease subsidies intended to help lower costs for business owners and plan members.

Experts agreed that the tax credits to be offered under the law may not be enough to entice small-business owners to start offering health insurance to employees. That makes the statewide insurance exchanges “an enormously important way of getting potentially affordable health insurance to the people,” Pratt said.

“If you don’t do the exchanges right in 2014, you’re going to have a lot of unhappy people,” he said.

Concerns over escalating costs of providing health care could force more employers to seek alternatives and trade-offs to traditionally benefit-rich PPO plans, said Kirk Roy, vice president of national health reform for BCBSM.

Roy added that reform would likely further the push away from a traditional fee-for-service payment model toward bundled payments that manage health of overall patient populations. The Blues are also likely to further expand programs such as the Patient-Centered Medical Home model that expand the role of primary care as a way to contain costs.

“The whole value proposition of, ‘are we getting what we pay for’ is going to become an issue,” Pratt added.

Check out a video webcast of the event and panel discussion. You can also view the Blues’ statement on health care reform from Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO, in the video below.

Sven Gustafson

About Sven Gustafson

Sven Gustafson is a senior writer in the Office of the President at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. He enjoys food, running, soccer and exploring Detroit and Michigan at large.
 
 

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