CHEYENNE — Wyoming businesses need to begin paying attention to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more popularly known as "Obamacare."
“It is a fluid situation that we all are going to have to keep an eye on,” said Rick Schum.
Schum is the president and chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, a nonprofit health insurer. He joined a panel of experts who discussed implementation of health-care reform during the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.
The members of the panel agreed that the answers to most questions about health-care reform and its effect on small business remain unanswered.
“Everyone is asking: 'What does it mean for me,'” said Schum. “The answer is: 'I don't know.'”
There is no doubt that fundamental changes to all aspects of health care are on the way, Schum said.
“I don't want to sound all gloom and doom; there's a lot in the ACA that is good,” Schum added. For example, quality and transparency will be part of the new equation in ways they have not been before, Schum said. The how and when are still unknown, however.
“Our common and reoccurring theme is uncertainty,” said Ron Nimmo, a partner and accountant with McGee, Hearne, & Paiz, LLC, who calls himself a tax guy.
He said tax experts, business owners and those within the health industry are all waiting for regulations to be issued under the new law.
While some deadlines were built into the law and some taxes may rise, Nimmo said, nothing is settled. Penalties for not meeting deadlines have no strong enforcement measures in them either.
“Long story short, we are going to have to look at a lot of the details to decide which way to go,” Nimmo said.
Liz Hoy, a health-care advisor to Gov. Matt Mead, said that the governor has also asked for clarification on a number of issues but has not received a response from the federal government.
She said the Legislature is already playing a role in determining the path Wyoming will take in implementing the reforms and will be involved in the outstanding decisions, including implementing a health insurance exchange.
So some issues will not be resolved until the Legislature meets this winter. “A lot is going to depend on the Legislature,” Hoy said.
The law requires that the state set of a health insurance exchange to promote competitive pricing. Otherwise the federal government will set one up for the state.
Schum and Stephen Goldstone, chief executive of WINHealth Partners/Wyoming Health Solutions, agreed that the state should take control of the exchanges.
“Wyoming is in the best position to advocate for Wyoming,” Goldstone said. “We are better off as a state to claim that (responsibility for the exchange).”
Although no one likes being told what to do - as with the individual health-insurance mandate required by ACA - Goldstone said, for the system to work properly everyone is going to have to participate.
“We are all paying for everyone who does not have insurance,” Goldstone added, since they cannot be denied care when they show up in an emergency room.
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