The Times Board of Economists

BOARD OF ECONOMISTS: Implications of health legislation remains unknown

2013-10-20T00:00:00Z 2013-12-18T16:20:20Z BOARD OF ECONOMISTS: Implications of health legislation remains unknownVanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

The continued uncertainty shrouding the Affordable Care Act is leaving many in the health care industry wondering what comes next.

“Everybody is kind of holding pat, being very very cautious about expanding and doing their level best to cut their costs,” said Gene Diamond, Franciscan Alliance Northern Region CEO. “If we're lucky, we'll stay at an even keel for a while until the full implications of Obamacare are known.”

Diamond, a member of the Times Board of Economists, recently gave a quarterly update on the health of the sector, and the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, was the center of his report.

Signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has been rolling out in pieces. Oct. 1 was a milestone, as it marked the start of open enrollment under the law. And starting Jan. 1, all Americans are required to have some form of health care.

But, some regulations are still being published, and implementation of those regulations is unclear, Diamond said.

Technical glitches on the government-run health care registration website is complicating matters. Franciscan employees had been telling indigent patients to hold off on elective surgeries until they secure coverage through the health care exchange, Diamond said.

“We've asked them to get on the exchanges, get coverage secured and then come to us, and we'll do the surgery,” he said. “This is exactly the way Obamacare is intended to work.”

But, they have run into technical problems signing up.

“Lots of folks who have been waiting for the roll out of Obamacare to have their elective surgery and being told from us to get on the exchanges can't get on the exchanges,” Diamond said. “They're saying, 'What do we do?' and our answer is, 'We don't know what you can do either.'”

Diamond predicts continued job cuts in the health care sector, as hospital executives take a closer look at their spending, just as employers across the country are doing, he said.

“Some of the biggest health care organizations are talking about making hundreds and hundreds of cuts in their work force, and our sense is that it's coming for us as well,” Diamond said.

If grocery demand is an indication of people's health, there may be an upward trend in making better choices.

Dave Wilkinson, president and CEO of Strack & Van Til, said shoppers are scrutinizing ingredient lists on labels.

They're demanding more gluten-free foods and inquiring about GMOs, said Wilkinson, who represents the grocery sector on the Times Board of Economists.

“People want to know what's inside their food,” he said.

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