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Conference covers Affordable Care Act

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 7:55 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 10:50 p.m.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you think the Affordable Care Act's provisions for mandated insurance coverage will benefit or hurt your business?


The Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care and the Sedgwick County Health Care Roundtable’s annual conference Wednesday focused on the Affordable Care Act.

Robert Langhofer, roundtable president, said they chose to focus on the Affordable Care Act because “it is the largest health care initiative and will bring the largest changes to health care and the delivery system that we’ve seen.”

“For this roundtable, we really wanted to give participants an opportunity to see what health care will look like and whether there are new models of care that are going to evolve in the marketplace,” Langhofer said.

Susan Dentzer, senior policy adviser for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former editor-in-chief of Health Affairs magazine, spoke to the group of more than 150 about how health care in the U.S. is being reinvented and how there is a “Triple Aim Focus” of better health and better health care at lower costs, an idea proposed by former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick.

The Affordable Care Act is being phased in, with a number of provisions – such as coverage mandates for individuals, insurance companies and businesses – coming into play within the next year.

Dentzer said the health care law and other changes in the Medicare system are moving the system away from the current fee for service model to paying for quality and value, which is evaluated on several criteria, including patient satisfaction, hospital readmission rates and health measures like heart attacks.

“The wind is at the back of people who are trying to change the system,” Dentzer said.

However, Dentzer stressed that there is still a long way to go with patient safety, care transitions and cost reductions.

Before Kit Wagar, Affordable Care Act specialist for Health and Human Services, took to the podium, there was a flash poll of audience members about the health care law.

In response to questions:

• 65 percent said they believe the law will harm their company;

• 83 percent said they believe the Affordable Care Act will raise health insurance costs;

• 79 percent said their company won’t drop employee health coverage but is considering raising premiums.

“Everyone is assuming that everything is going to hell in a handbasket. I wish I could tell you that everything is not, but there will be major changes,” Wagar said.

Wagar gave the group details about the upcoming online health insurance marketplace – formerly called an exchange – where customers will be able to compare health insurance plans.

Open enrollment for the policies offered through the marketplace begins in October. The website will allow people to compare plans and determine whether they are eligible for government subsidies based on their income.

Attorney Steve Smith with Hinkle Law spoke about nuances within the law, including how big and small employers are coping with the increased requirements of offering affordable insurance to employees.

He urged employers to keep good records in the event that the IRS comes knocking about whether businesses offered employees coverage and what kind, especially since there are penalties for employers that don’t.

The conference also included panel discussions among health care providers and health care payors, including Preferred Health Systems/Coventry, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas and CaroMont Health System/Via Christi Health.

For more information, visit www.roundtablehealthcare.org.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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