At Symposium, Employers Told to Budget Now for Health Care Reform

by Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 4:32 pm  

Employers should assess their business quickly to determine a plan of action that minimizes risk as they face looming health care reforms that are already taking place, according to speakers at Wednesday’s Arkansas Business Health Care Symposium.

Speakers and panelists from insurance companies, accounting firms, law firms and state government urged an audience of about 300 business and nonprofit managers to immediately determine what the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act requires of them and begin taking steps to comply.

They also gave an overview of the law’s myriad reporting requirements and tax implications, and encouraged businesses to make the most of the one-year delay in the employer mandate, which requires that employers with 50 or more employee provide health care for its workers or pay a penalty.

"Find the path that you're on," Joe Thompson, Arkansas' surgeon general and the director of the state’s Center for Health Improvement, told the crowd during a luncheon panel. "And minimize the risks that you have for your business."

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Other speakers at the half-day symposium -- Arkansas Business’ third covering issues related to the ACA -- were Tom Hayes of Regions Insurance Inc., Cal Kellogg of Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Chris Doolittle of BKD LLP and Juliana Reno of Kutak Rock LLP.

The luncheon panel, which Thompson moderated, featured Andy Allison of the state Department of Human Services, Cynthia Crone of the state Insurance Department and Ray Hanley of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care.

Those panelists, who are leading agencies that deal directly with setting up health care reform in Arkansas, were optimistic that the state Legislature’s "private option" plan to insure 250,000 Arkansans will create an attractive marketplace for insurance carriers, resulting in a stable health care system and lower premiums for employees.

But a host of unknowns remain, including just what those insurance rates will be. Crone said the insurance department will be able to share more about what those premiums will look like in the first week of September.

More: To see all speaker presentations from the event, click here. Tweets from the event are available at #HealthCareAR.

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