GUEST COMMENTARY: Unintended consequences, accountability after reform

2013-06-10T12:28:00Z 2013-06-10T17:54:21Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Unintended consequences, accountability after reformBy Will Glaros nwitimes.com
June 10, 2013 12:28 pm  • 

Health care reform was certainly needed, but the way in which the bill was passed was controversial. Many in Congress voted while admitting they had not even had time to read it. 

The intention was good, the beginnings were good, but the future might already be leading to unintended consequences.

2010 through 2012 saw mostly health insurance reform, and the changes were for the better: Coverage for children to age 26, no pre-existing conditions for dependents under 19, no plan maximums, some preventative health care and other provisions on patients' rights. Most of these caused a 3 percent to 4 percent escalation of rates but promoted actions that could stabilize costs in the long term.

2013 brought about lower flexible spending account allowances and minor changes.

Now we get to what’s occurring in preparation for 2014 and the subsequent unintended consequences.

First, it is incredible the number of people who think health insurance will be free. While many will be eligible for no personal cost (Medicaid, etc.), most will still have some cost after the subsidy that will range between 2 percent to 9.5 percent of W2 income.

Second, how many employers perilously close to 50 employees will consider either terminating employees or reducing hours to avoid paying penalties?

Third, employers with more than 50 workers might reduce hours to below the 30-hour requirement because of the penalties.

Fourth, some employers who had changed deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums will be forced to reduce those to new federal limits. This will automatically increase costs to the plan and force up the cost to both employer and employees.

Fifth, new government penalties and fees for patient outcomes research, reinsurance pools and a new health insurance company tax will further increase costs.

Sixth, many people will take the greater of 1 percent of income or $95 penalty rather than buy insurance.

Seventh, too many people are granted exemptions, leaving a large population who don’t have to buy insurance but can still use emergency rooms.

The bottom line is this:

  • People might lose jobs.
  • People might see reduced hours.
  • People will see increasing costs.
  • Small employers with under 50 workers have lost their flexibility in plan choices, which could end up increasing cost to both them and their employees.
  • Insurance companies have had to spend billions on preparing for the new requirements and employers on wasted hours trying to comply.

We can work to tweak the problematic aspects and try to improve on what we have been dealt

The greater lesson for every citizen of this country is that we must demand more from all of our representatives and hold them accountable.

If all our representatives had been forced to read this law and they had tried to work together before it passed, maybe something more workable could have been provided.

Will Glaros is president of Dyer-based Employer Benefit Systems. The opinions are the writer's.

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