published Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Expert says businesses should think long term on health care

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Selected provisions of the Affordable Care Act for 2010 and 2011:

2010

* Putting information for consumers online

* Prohibiting denying coverage of children based on pre-existing conditions

* Eliminating lifetime limits on insurance coverage

* Providing small business health insurance tax credits

* Providing free preventive care

* Extending coverage for young adults

* Holding insurance companies accountable for unreasonable rate hikes

2011

* Offering prescription drug discounts

* Providing free preventive care for seniors

* Bringing down health care premiums

* Addressing overpayments to big insurance companies and strengthening Medicare Advantage.

Source: www.healthcare.gov

DALTON, Ga. — Employers should spend more time listening to their employees about what kind of employee benefits they need, an insurance representative said when talking about upcoming changes from federal health care reform laws.

“When a benefit becomes a hassle, it is no longer a benefit,” said Mark Mixer, vice president of sales and marketing for Alliant Health Plans. “Employers should sit down with employees and ask, ‘What do you need?’ You are never going to know unless you ask.”

Mixer and Tyler Thompson, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, spoke at the Dalton Golf & County Club Tuesday morning as part of the “Wake Up ... Whitfield” series hosted by the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce.

Thompson said Isakson, R-Ga., has voted for defunding and repealing health care reform several times this year, but no definitive changes have taken place on the political side.

“We have our eyes on the prize — 2012,” Thompson said, talking about the next presidential election.

In March, Georgia officials requested a waiver exempting the state from a requirement that insurers spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on medical care in small-group and individual markets, Thompson said.

So far, of several states requesting the exemption, only Maine has been given one, according to an Associated Press article.

Mixer, who spoke about requirements that employers and insurance companies will see in the next few years, said he does not expect major changes to the overall reform before the main portions of the law are enacted in 2014.

“Right now we are sort of in a holding pattern until then, when we will see the major pieces that will forever change health care in this country,” he said.

Mixer outlined changes already in affect such as allowing parents to keep their children on insurance plans until they are 26, providing insurance to children with pre-existing conditions and covering 100 percent of preventive care.

In 2014, other changes such as increasing access to Medicaid, requiring employers to provide coverage, requiring everyone to be insured and changing requirements for insurance agencies will go into effect.

Businesses should think about long-term changes in the next five years, Mixer urged the group.

“We need to think about how you increase quality without increasing corresponding costs,” he said. “Right now, we don’t have answers to a lot of this. The problem is, there are no black and white answers.”

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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