Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 29, 2013

Health care reform changes for the insured

BY ANNE STANTON astanton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — For the majority of Michiganders the Affordable Care Act law will have little impact except a potential hike in premiums.

That’s because insurers will charge companies an additional 3 to 5 percent to cover costs and fees associated with the new law, said Jeff Connolly of Blue Cross/Blue Shield West Michigan operations.

“The employer may choose to pass on some or none of it,” he said.

On the plus side, insurance packages must include a minimum of 10 essential health benefits, such as maternity care and pediatric services.

“So if you’re driving an Oldsmobile today, it’s a much nicer car tomorrow that everyone has to drive. It’s a much richer benefit offering,” he said.

Companies with more than 50 employees will have to provide "affordable" coverage that provides a "minimum value" or 60 percent of medical services or pay a penalty, starting in 2015. Right now, half of Michigan residents are covered by employers' insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The deadline to pay coverage to employees working 30 hours or more was delayed until Jan. 1, 2015.

Companies are evaluating their hiring decisions along with the decision to provide insurance or pay a penalty, Connolly said.

"They are living and breathing this every day," he said. "It's a topic of conversation in many of the employer meetings in which we participate, given the unknowns and what everyone has to plan for."

Jane Bates, who works for CSM Services, said the company cut back employee hours to less than 30 last spring, blaming the cut on "ObamaCare."

"A lot of people quit," she said. "Most of us are back to 34, 36 hours."

UPCOMING HEALTH CARE REFORM PRESENTATION

TV 7&4 and UpNorthLive.com will host a free, televised community forum called "Understanding Health Care Reform" from 7-8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, at Northwestern Michigan College. News anchor Kristen Lowe will host the program in front of a studio audience at the college's Milliken Auditorium, while co-anchor Marc Schollett will staff an expert panel featuring representatives from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Priority Health at the 7&4 studio. The panel will answer questions from the audience, by call-in to the TV station, online and via Twitter.

After the broadcast, a question-and-answer session will continue in a live chat on the UpNorthLive.com web site. Studio audience members also can meet with local health professionals. Audience members should arrive by 6:45 p.m. for introductions and seating arrangements before the 7 p.m. air time.