Experts on insurance, health care leaders at Journal conference

The political and legal challenges to federal health reform may finally be settled with the reelection of President Obama and the Supreme Court's upholding of the Affordable Care Act, but even with that seeming sense of finality, a host of challenges lay ahead for all levels of the health care industry.In this report

Experts on insurance, health care leaders at Journal conference

2012 Healthiest Companies in the North Bay: Welcome

2012 Healthiest Companies in the North Bay winner profilesHealth Care Conference panelist Q&AsJohn Fradelizio, Wells Fargo Insurance ServicesRick Heron, Western Health AdvantageDavid Hodges, Vantreo Insurance BrokerageDennis Lum, Kaiser PermanenteVictor McKnight, EPIC Insurance BrokersMichael Parr, NorthWest Insurance AgencyMike Purvis, Sutter Medical Center of Santa RosaTodd Salnas, St. Joseph Health, Sonoma CountyJim Settles, Woodruff Saywer & Co.

From insurers and providers to local and national brokers, every sector can expect one constant -- uncertainty. That's according to local experts who will discuss post-election health care reform, and how it impacts the local market, at the Business Journal's annual Health Care Conference on Wednesday.

As a result of health overhaul, hospitals across the country are bracing for significantly lower reimbursement rates from the federal government for Medicare patients, a development that is forcing large health systems to reevaluate their care models and prompting a palpable shift toward more integrated care.

Employers, meanwhile, face a host of complex issues themselves. With state and federal health exchanges -- where both employer groups and individuals will be able to shop for what is hoped to be more affordable health coverage with government subsidies -- coming online in the next two years, will those same employers drop health coverage for employees? And if so, will those employees be able to obtain affordable, quality coverage?

"This is a primary question that most benefits broker lose sleep over," said David Hodges, vice president at Vantreo Insurance Brokerage. "The over-burdensome administration of the ACA will lead some small employers with low profit margins, and mid-sized employers with easily replaceable, non-highly skilled workers, to cancel health insurance."

Similarly, health plans are shifting quickly, often aligning themselves directly with providers to form accountable care organizations, better known as ACOs, or ACO-type structures to prevent costly duplication and more streamlined care.  The impact of such structures is not yet known, providers and health plans said, but it's nevertheless a reality that is emerging on both a local and national level.

And new forms of technology -- such as the continued march toward electronic health records -- are impacting health care delivery across the country, but concerns center on patient privacy and a host of other issues.

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