As dust settles on health care ruling, insurance industry reflects on impact

The Business Journal asked experts in the insurance industry to comment on the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the health care law:Chris ReiterVice President, Employee Benefits, Woodruff-Sawyer & Co.So now that the verdict is in, what are your initial thoughts on the ruling?

I am very surprised given how the proceedings went in March.  For Chief Justice John Roberts to be the deciding vote and writer of the majority opinion is probably the most compelling, given he was appointed by President George W. Bush and he is generally thought of as a more conservative voice.Will the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate do anything to stabilize employer sentiment on employee benefits?

Woodruff-Sawyer hosted an employer seminar with about 30 wineries this morning and the general consensus:  I guess we really need to start planning for the major provisions to take effect in 2014.  Some were happy it was resolved and upheld just because there is now clarity and what has already been put in place will not be impacted.  Plus it will not throw the insurance markets in to disarray trying to adjust to any dramatic changes.  Others are still very concerned about how it will impact their businesses, especially in the winery/agricultural industry.  Yet another minority opinion was that they were ready to “throw in the towel” on providing health insurance and give cash to employees to “figure it out on their own.”Do you think the mandate, and the law in general, will do anything to help curb costs?

Tough to say, but the overall sentiment is not much.  The way the legislation is designed, it seems like employers are going to be unfairly responsible for paying for a large portion of this country’s health care costs.  As written, it is very unlikely the gov’t can support the expansion of coverage and subsidies for individuals without having to increase the penalties for both employers and individuals.Now that the individual mandate is seemingly settled, what are employers looking to next as the Affordable Care Act plays out?

As stated in the earlier answer, every one now needs to really dig in and better understand how this law will impact them starting in 2014.  18 months is not much time and the sooner you analyze its impact, you can try and be prepared.  2013 employee benefit program decisions should include a look ahead to how it plays out with provisions taking effect the following year.Shane RogersEmployee benefits consultant, Rogers & Young Insurance ServicesSo now that the verdict is in, what are your initial thoughts on the ruling?

I was a bit surprised, but not shocked with the ruling. There is still a level of uncertainty with the election, but employers will need to prepare for what lies ahead. Brokers will need to work closely with their clients to determine potential outcomes and how this may affect their benefits strategy.Will the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate do anything to stabilize employer sentiment on employee benefits? 

If insurance carriers are forced to provide coverage for all adults in 2014, its very likely that rates will rise dramatically. There could be many employers that drop their health plan, but I think that employers competing for talent will need to maintain a comprehensive benefits package. Do you think the mandate, and the law in general, will do anything to help curb costs?

That’s a difficult question to answer and only time will tell if costs stabilize over the long-term. There could be a better effort by congress and employers to drive healthy behaviors. We are looking at ways to help our clients communicate with employees and focus on risk factors that affect their rates.  This can give them some level of control and improve costs over time. Now that the individual mandate is seemingly settled, what are employers looking to next as the Affordable Care Act plays out?

Now is the time for employers to focus on future changes and compliance requirements. They’ll have to assume the law will move ahead as planned and determine the direction of their benefits program.Victor McKnightPrincipal, Edgewood Partners Insurance Center -- EPICSo now that the verdict is in, what are your initial thoughts on the ruling?

What a surprise. I sure didn’t see Roberts as the swing vote. The part of the ruling that provides the option for states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion will be problematic in states that choose not to implement it. It will mean more uninsured in those states. We will continue to see ACA as a highly politicized issue through the November elections and this won’t change. Repeal is a very slim possibility. The Republicans would need 60 senators, which is probably not realistic. However, if Romney is elected he could provide waivers for those states that do not want to implement the bill. California would not be included in this but there were 26 states involved in the lawsuit. Will the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate do anything to stabilize employer sentiment on employee benefits?


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