The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010, and since then, the health care delivery system has experienced rapid change. Health care reform will be the biggest change to the U.S. health care system since Medicare was established in 1965. According to KPMG and Milliman reports prepared for the Ohio Department of Insurance, nearly 1 million more Ohioans will shift to Medicaid in 2014 at a cost of $250 million to taxpayers. It is estimated that this will increase to $600 million in 2019, while another 524,000 individuals could shift into the proposed government subsidized exchange. It’s also estimated that 660,000 fewer Ohioans will get their health insurance coverage from their employers. Not only does health care reform impact the way health care services are covered and administered, it also changes the delivery of health care and the ways consumers will obtain insurance. In addition, employer groups that offer benefits to their employees will experience change due to health care reform laws. Therefore, many employers have questions regarding how they can continue to offer comprehensive benefits to their employees while maintaining the costs of such benefits. “The small- to medium-sized employer will definitely be affected by the new legislation,” says Marty Hauser, president of SummaCare, Inc. “Many employers plan to continue offering benefits to their employees, but the way these benefits will be offered and the contributions made by the employer will likely change.” Smart Business spoke with Hauser about changes and mandates under the health care reform law, as well as post-reform strategies employers may use when offering benefits. What changes under PPACA have already gone into effect? In 2010, changes include coverage of children with pre-existing conditions; coverage of dependents up to age 26 under federal law and up to age 28 under Ohio law; elimination of lifetime limits of coverage; regulation of annual dollar limits of coverage; and a prohibition against rescission of coverage. In addition, certain preventive services became covered at 100 percent for most policies. What changes under PPACA are up next? While many of the changes under the PPACA law will go into effect in 2014, others will take effect in the coming months, and insurance companies are busy making appropriate preparations now. In August 2012, new women’s health preventive services, including contraception, will be covered at 100 percent if received in-network. These services fall into the categories of evidence-based screenings and counseling, routine immunizations and other preventive services for women. For policies issued or renewed after Sept. 23, 2012, insurance issuers will be required to distribute Summary Benefits of Coverage (SBC) documents to potential enrollees upon application and upon renewal. These documents will allow consumers to easily compare plans from different insurance companies. Under the law, two new resources scheduled to be available for consumers to purchase policies. Consumer Orientated and Operated Plans (CO-OPs) go into effect in 2014 and will offer consumers more choice when it comes to purchasing an insurance policy. CO-OPs are nonprofit groups designed to offer individuals and small businesses more affordable options, and their customers will direct them. Low-interest federal loans will be available to eligible private, nonprofit groups to help set up and maintain the CO-OPs, which can be operated locally, statewide or across several states. The second new resource for consumers in 2014 will be exchanges. Exchanges are state-based transparent, competitive insurance marketplaces, administered by a governmental agency or nonprofit organization, where individuals and small businesses with up to 100 employees can buy affordable and qualified health benefit plans. Standard benefit tiers will be offered on each exchange, and states will have broad latitude in design of the exchanges. All plans offered on the exchanges will be guaranteed issue with no medical underwriting, and some consumers may be eligible for subsidies based on their income. What strategies might employers use so they can continue to offer health insurance to their employees in the post-reform market? Strategies include providing employees with a stipend to pay for health insurance in the individual market or providing a defined contribution and moving to the purchase of policies on the exchanges. Another strategy is offering a policy that promotes a culture of wellness that features a smaller network, larger employee contribution or incentives for meeting wellness and/or preventive care goals. Employers may also continue offering benefits in the same manner as they have in the past. What changes are insurance carriers making? While the focus of most carriers has always been to provide cost-effective care in the most appropriate setting, insurance carriers now are participating with providers in creating Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) and Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH) that aim to further provide savings and promote coordinated, appropriate care. More information and education about these activities will be forthcoming in the near future. Where can employers get more information? Begin with your current insurance carrier or broker. Share questions or concerns. You can work together to determine the best option for your business. Also, www.healthcare.gov provides information that outlines the basics of the reform law and its provisions. Regardless of the final outcome of PPACA, health care delivery will be changing. With the spotlight on quality, effective outcomes and transparency, the move toward improving the delivery system is certainly well under way. MARTY HAUSER is the president of SummaCare, Inc. Reach him at email@example.com. Insights Health Care is brought to you by SummaCare, Inc.