TahoeChamber and Barton Health recently partnered to present two forums on healthcare reform, and what it means for businesses and individuals. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, became federal law in 2010, and is complex, consisting of more than 2,700 pages of regulations. Forum guest speakers did an excellent job of presenting the most pertinent information on the most significant change in U.S. healthcare since the establishment of Medicare in 1965.
The PPACA overall is intended to increase the number of Americans with health coverage. It is projected that health care spending will be $5.2 trillion by 2022. In 2009, more than 50 million Americans were uninsured, and we spent more than $2.5 trillion on health care. Those with pre-existing conditions were unable to attain coverage and average family premiums have doubled to more than $14,000 per year! On the horizon is an aging population resulting in even more people with health problems.
On the brighter side of the coin, the aim of ACA is that by 2019, 32 million people who are currently uninsured will have health insurance. Immediate changes to take effect include limitations on how insurers can spend your premium dollars. Patients currently covered by Medicaid or Medicare will continue to receive benefits, with Medicaid expanding coverage for individuals and families. There will also be health insurance tax breaks for the unemployed. Patients will receive greater assistance with prescription costs and services such as preventative screenings will become free. Those age 26 or younger can remain covered through their parent’s plan, and it will be illegal to turn down children for pre-existing conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
For business owners and managers the first step will be adhering to the mandatory employee notice requirements. Some business owners may find the state based exchanges, Covered CA & Silver State Health, provide more affordable options as steps are taken toward a more efficient health care system. Business owners should speak with their accountant, legal advisor and insurance broker as well as reviewing the regulations and materials. Some businesses may be able to benefit from tax credits while others could be at risk of paying fines for neglecting to provide adequate insurance options or information. For those unable to obtain insurance through their employer numerous options can be found at your state of residency Exchange, which are virtual insurance mega malls. Each state is divided up into regions with a simplified menu of options for comparison purposes.
There are numerous resources available for community members and business owners. To view the forum materials, visit tahoechamber.org and click on Workshops & Forums. Barton Health’s website www.bartonhealth.org/reform has a wealth of information as do the CA and NV exchanges at www.exchange.nv.gov or www.coveredca.com.
— Betty “B” Gorman, J.D., B.S., A.C.E., is the president and CEO of TahoeChamber.