Health changes to be historic, but gradual

Daunting as health care reform may seem, it’s not going to affect employers much for awhile, except perhaps to help a little. More

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HEALTH CARE

Health changes to be historic, but gradual

PBN PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
CHANGE IS COMING: R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller said at last month’s summit that the biggest changes in health care reform, including the individual mandate, will come in 2014.
Posted 5/10/10

For employers, here’s the good news: Daunting as health care reform may seem, it’s not going to affect you much for awhile, except perhaps to help a little.

Changes “are going to be gradual,” Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller said at a summit April 28 hosted by Providence Business News. Family plans will now cover dependents up to age 26. There will be small-business tax credits and help with retiree plans.

The biggest changes, Koller said, won’t come until 2014: the individual mandate, the health insurance exchanges (plus penalties for employers with more than 50 workers who don’t offer coverage, and a requirement that groups of more than 200 automatically enroll workers in plans).

If you still feel overwhelmed, here’s more good news: There are extensive resources available to help explain the reform law – and to keep you abreast of new developments and the scores of regulations that must still be drafted by the government.

For starters, there’s Koller’s office and its website, www.ohic.ri.gov. There’s the Rhode Island Business Group on Health and its site, www.ribgh.org. There’s Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts’ office – health care policy and small business are priorities for her.

Ready for the bad news now?

This is going to be a lot of work, at least if you hope that reform will reshape Rhode Island’s health care landscape and make it more efficient, equitable and affordable. Also, insurance premiums are going to keep rising. Some say reform will make them worse.

But before we go any farther, here’s one point on which all six panelists agreed: In laying the groundwork for near-universal health insurance coverage, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is historic – a “watershed moment,” as Koller put it.

“A civilized country should take care of its own,” said James E. Purcell, president and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. “Every man, woman and child should have access to quality health insurance.”

The three-hour summit, held at the Providence Marriott Downtown, drew more than 400 people. Moderated by PBN Editor Mark S. Murphy, the event focused on how reform will affect Rhode Island employers.

Along with Koller, Roberts and Purcell, the panel included Dr. Troyen Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark Corp.; Stephen Zubiago, a partner at Nixon Peabody who specializes in health care law; and Linda Lulli, assistant vice president for human resources at Bryant University, a local leader in the Society for Human Resource Management, and an executive board member of the Rhode Island Business Group on Health.

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